Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo refrained from openly rejecting the idea of joining the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition of 34 countries to fight terrorism, but his chief security czar announced the government’s decision to distance itself from the anti-terrorist coalition.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said Indonesia had no intention of joining the military alliance, as the government was prioritising the use of soft power in its war on terror.
“The stance of Indonesia’s government is that we want to handle the IS with a soft approach, including by promoting Islam as gracious and full of compassion, not a brutal religion like what the IS is portraying,” the retired four-star general said after accompanying the president in his meeting with Indonesian Military (TNI) generals on Dec 16.
The president said that the government did not want to follow other countries that used military force to combat radicalism and preferred using a soft approach as it was more effective.
“There are actually other things that we can do. Whether it is a religious approach or cultural approach, we need to do it consistently, firmly and continuously so that we can face any threat,” Jokowi said in his speech during a limited cabinet meeting at the Presidential Office on Wednesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, the president also told the military at TNI headquarters in Cilangkap, East Java, not to rule out deradicalisation measures while implementing a hard approach, saying that seeking breakthroughs in introducing better soft-approach measures was also needed.
Meanwhile, National Police chief Gen Badrodin Haiti said that he had proposed a number of deradicalisation steps in the cabinet meeting. “That includes [deradicalisation measures] for former terror convicts and their supporters. We must also protect our people by imposing programmes to counter radicalism [using soft-approach measures],” Badrodin said.
“It is important to prevent people who have yet to be influenced by radicalism by raising their awareness about radical ideologies,” Badrodin added.
The new Islamic alliance, led by Saudi Arabia, was expected to share information and train, equip and provide forces if necessary for the fight against the militant Islamic State (IS) group militants, Reuters reported recently.
The news agency also reported that a statement by Saudi state news agency SPA said the new coalition would have a joint operations centre based in Riyadh to “coordinate and support military operations”. The countries listed as joining the new coalition are Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and several African nations.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir said that Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister had approached Jakarta twice in the past few days to ask it to join a “centre to coordinate against extremism and terrorism”.
However, “what Saudi Arabia has announced is a military alliance, […] It is thus important for Indonesia to first receive details before deciding to support it,” he said.
Western nations welcomed Saudi Arabia’s new Islamic coalition against terrorism, but confusion over its role, even among its own members, may undermine its ambitions of tackling militancy and deflecting international criticism of Riyadh.