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A Brief

Indonesia, a nation boasting a population of more than 270 million, is a sprawling archipelago comprising over 17,500 islands. With an impressive economic size exceeding one trillion dollars, it stands proudly as a member of the exclusive G20 and holds the chair among the ASEAN nation states. The country’s vast size, youthful demographic, and strategic location contribute to its exceptional standing within the global community, rendering Indonesia truly unique among the elite nations of the world.

The capital is by definition a seat of power and a place of decision-making processes that affect the lives and the future of the nation ruled, and that may influence trends and events beyond its borders.” (Gottmann and Harper 1990, 63)

Indonesian daring and superb plan to change the capital from Jakarta to Nusantara is not an unprecedented decision. It is also not the first country in the world to change its capital. For example, Egypt has outlined plans to build a new administrative capital that would cover an area of about 270 square miles near Cairo. Nigeria transferred its capital from Lagos to Abuja in 1991. In the same vein, Myanmar’s military rulers moved the capital 200 miles north from Rangoon (Yangon) in 2005, to Naypyidaw. Russia has switched between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In 1959, Pakistan also shifted its capital from its south in Karachi, to Islamabad in the north of the country. Another new capital seat is Astana, a planned city that became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997. It took over from Almaty, which is still the country’s commercial center and largest population center.

Where the new capital is located and why it was needed?

While addressing Conference of Parties, COP27 summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres termed climate change as “collective suicide”.  Indonesia is grappling with the deep impacts of climate change, particularly evident in its capital, Jakarta. Flooded streets, overwhelmed sewerage systems, and congested thoroughfares underscore the urgent challenges faced by the nation. Moreover, the looming threat of rising sea level has compelled Indonesia to make a pivotal decision, to relocate its capital from Jakarta to Nusantara in East Kalimantan. Recent studies indicate that Jakarta, situated on Java, the most densely populated island, could be submerged by 2050 due to increasingly severe rainfall, flooding, and land subsidence. In response to this pressing concern, Nusantara, a purpose-built city located 620 miles away in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province, is poised to replace Jakarta as the country’s political center by late 2024. The ambitious relocation plan involves a substantial $35 billion investment, reflecting Indonesia’s commitment to addressing the complex interplay of environmental and urban challenges.

How Nusantara will impact Jakarta in future?

The impending shift of the capital to Nusantara heralds a myriad of challenges. The city faces the grim prospect of dwindling attention from policymakers and a dearth of funds for its essential rehabilitation. The relocation poses a daunting predicament for Jakarta’s inhabitants, as not everyone can feasibly move to the new capital. The anticipated resource scarcity and apprehensions about the relocation process compound the worries of the city’s residents. The challenges extend beyond mere funding constraints; the move threatens to divert attention away from critical infrastructure development in Jakarta, leaving its current denizens to bear the brunt of the consequences. The looming question pertains to the fate of their resources and how they can safeguard their assets. Jakarta’s vulnerability to floods adds another layer of complexity, with insufficient measures in place to mitigate these issues.

“People need to be attracted to come to a new place. They first need to see robust infrastructure like schools, hospitals, and housing facilities or it won’t be attractive for them to move there,” (Melinda Martinus, lead researcher for Socio-Cultural Affairs at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)

How Nusantara will impact Indonesia in future?

The Indonesian government aims to relocate up to 1.9 million people to Nusantara by 2045, with some civil servants moving as early as 2024, would have to face a bumpy road ahead.

The prospect of Nusantara serving as Indonesia’s new capital presents a dichotomy of positive and negative impacts for the nation’s future. On the positive side, a deliberate shift towards green and clean energy dependency positions Indonesia as a trailblazer for environmental sustainability. This transformative move not only enhances the country’s international image but also augurs well for its burgeoning tourism sector. Nusantara’s emergence promises a boon in employment opportunities, particularly in the realm of infrastructural development, vital projects such as main roads and water sanitation systems. However, amidst these promising prospects, challenges loom on the horizon. The perpetually congested and challenging conditions in Jakarta pose an ongoing hurdle for policymakers, compounded by the economic strains associated with the relocation. The hefty estimated cost of $35 billion for constructing Nusantara raises concerns, especially when the government’s commitment stands at a modest 20%, potentially impacting economic stability in Jakarta.

A new city in the need of hour

The urgency for a new city has become important in the light of Jakarta’s current state. The capital of Indonesia depicts an image of overcrowding, congestion, environmental degradation, and imminent perils. The rapid expansion of Jakarta, from a population of less than a million to a staggering 30 million since Indonesia’s independence, has led to the construction of towering skyscrapers fueled by fortunes amassed from various resources like timber, palm oil, natural gas, gold, copper, and tin. However, this growth has come at a significant cost.

The city is now grappling with severe space constraints, exacerbated by heavy traffic and pollution. Jakarta is also sinking due to the over-extraction of aquifers by its inhabitants and the encroaching rise of sea waters along its shores. A staggering 40% of Jakarta now finds itself below sea level. In response to these challenges, the imperative for a new city arises—a city where Indonesians can breathe smoke-free air, enjoy access to clean water, revel in expansive and unpolluted spaces, and experience the vibrancy of a new, clean, and green urban environment.

  • Depiction of the progressive outlook of Indonesia

“A capital city is not just a symbol of national identity, but also a representation of the progress of the nation,” he said, just one day before Indonesia’s 74th anniversary of Independence. “This is for the realization of economic equality and justice.”(Indonesian President Joko Widodo)

Indonesia is characterized by immense diversity encompassing numerous languages and ethnic groups, it navigates a complex mix of regions governed by Islamic Shariah inspired principles, driven by separatist sentiments, or steeped in Indigenous traditions. Remarkably, it stands as a secular democracy, boasting the world’s largest Muslim population, a substantial Christian minority, and recognition of several official faiths. Despite historical episodes of deadly sectarian conflicts, Indonesia has demonstrated resilience and unity.

The prospect of a new capital city will bring an opportunity for profound reinvention, symbolizing Indonesia as a beacon of progress, development, and economic strength. This transformative endeavor reflects the nation’s commitment to inclusivity, portraying Indonesia as a state that embraces its diversities and presents a forward-looking, cohesive image to the entire world.

  • Climate change Resilience

“Indonesia envisions its new capital to be the first city in the country to achieve net zero”

(Nusantara National Capital Authority Chairman Bambang Susantono)

The Indonesian government is resolutely committed to cultivating Nusantara as a green, intelligent, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable city, recognizing that the development of the new capital is an integral part of Indonesia’s broader vision for 2045. In a significant move towards climate change resilience, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Nusantara National Capital Authority (NNCA) have formalized a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

“Nusantara continues to strengthen its pathway to becoming the world’s first sustainable forest capital, as well as Indonesia’s first carbon-neutral city by 2045,” said Mr. Susantono

This collaborative agreement sets the stage for joint planning and development efforts to shape Nusantara into a carbon-neutral forest city. Under the MOU, the ADB and the Government of Indonesia have pledged to work together to ensure that the new capital is meticulously designed to minimize its environmental footprint, with a firm commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2045.

(D) Enhance FDI and Investor Confidence

Indonesia currently lags behind regional counterparts in attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), accounting for only around 2 percent of its GDP. This stands in contrast to economies like Malaysia over 3 percent, Vietnam over 6 percent, and Cambodia over 12 percent. The shortfall in FDI deprives Indonesia of crucial sources of technology, knowledge transfer, and external funding. Export-oriented manufacturing FDI is linked to accelerated labor productivity, higher average wages, increased introduction of new products, and elevated investment rates.

“We are opening up our arms to foreign investors,” says the head of the Nusantara Capital Authority (OIKN)

The Nusantara Capital City Authority reports 182 letters of intent from investors, half of whom are international, signaling a growing interest since October 2022. Government representatives are actively engaging with potential investors globally, and recent regulatory updates in March aim to further boost investor confidence. These regulations streamline business licensing, offer tax breaks, and extend land rights in Nusantara, allowing for periods of up to 190 years—double that of other major cities in Indonesia.

(E) Provide growth prospective and new development opportunities for the whole country

“It is not just about wanting to relocate the capital. We don’t just want a place for government functions,” said Danis H. Sumadilaga, “We want to create a new economic growth center.”

Sumadilaga heads the task force overseeing infrastructure development implementation at Indonesia’s Ministry of Public Works and Housing.

In addition, Sumadilaga highlighted the government’s efforts to enhance businesses in key sectors such as renewable energy, health care, education, and agriculture.

(F) Impact on the demography of Indonesia

“The demographic dividend refers to the accelerated economic growth that begins with changes in the age structure of a country’s population as its transitions from high to low birth and death rates” (Gribble and Bremner 2012:2).

Indonesia currently finds itself in the advantageous phase of its demographic transition, often referred to as the ‘sweet spot.’ With over 70 percent of its population in the prime working age group, the nation stands to benefit significantly. However, the true potential of this demographic dividend can only be realized if productive employment opportunities are created for those aged 15 to 55. The establishment of the new capital is poised to accelerate the harnessing of this demographic dividend to its fullest extent. By doing so, Indonesia aims to boost productive employment, mirroring the rapid progress observed in countries like Taiwan and South Korea.

(G) Nusantara: An effort to neutralize polarized politics

The establishment of the new capital transcends mere attempts to overcome the current challenges faced by Jakarta; it seeks to redefine the relationship between the seat of government and the heart of civic society. This endeavor aims to physically distance decision-makers from dissent, creating a space where the corridors of power are insulated from the tumult of public discord. Jakarta, historically pivotal in Indonesian politics, has witnessed significant moments, from student-led protests that toppled authoritarian leader Suharto in 1998 to 2016 and 2017’s Islamist demonstrations against then-Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama amid rising religious conservatism.

The envisioned new capital aspires to become a stage for a more harmonious and dissent-free political decision-making process. By relocating the seat of government, it seeks to establish a new narrative, rooted in fresh symbols of national pride, detached from the historical complexities of Jakarta. This strategic move aims not only to address the current challenges but also to set the foundation for a new era in the nation’s political landscape.

 (H) Provide strategic depth to Indonesia

The strategic advantages tied to the recently chosen capital city, Nusantara, are multifaceted. Notably, the new capital’s geographical location renders it less susceptible to natural disasters, positioned away from fault lines, seismic activity, storms, and floods. This strategic placement not only mitigates environmental risks but also serves to relocate the focal point of the country, thereby shifting its center of gravity. This includes the establishment of new infrastructure and the formulation of updated policies to safeguard the newly constructed Integrated Knowledge Hub (IKN) and the government operating within its confines. Designating the IKN as a new Center of Gravity (COG) underscores its pivotal role in national security, a matter of paramount interest.

Flip side

(a)Environmental set backs

Indonesia’s proposed new capital in East Kalimantan is envisioned as a “smart, green, beautiful, and sustainable city,” yet it has triggered concerns about extensive environmental repercussions for the island of Borneo, a crucial biodiversity hotspot and carbon sink.

Projections indicate that the direct footprint of the new capital may rapidly expand, reaching over 10 km from its core within two decades and exceeding 30 km before mid-century. The sensitive ecosystems at risk include forest reserves, mangroves, and peatlands.

Borneo, often referred to as the “lungs of the world,” harbors diverse wildlife such as long-nosed monkeys, clouded leopards, pig-tailed macaques, flying fox-bats, and the smallest rhinos globally. Despite the Indonesian government’s claim that Nusantara, the new capital, will accommodate 1.9 million residents by 2045, environmentalists express apprehension. They argue that building a capital in this ancient location could expedite deforestation in one of the world’s largest and oldest tropical rainforests, endangering the habitats of various endangered species.

Indigenous communities, residing in the area for generations, face the potential threat of displacement. Forest Watch Indonesia, a non-governmental organization monitoring forestry issues, highlighted in a November 2022 report that a significant portion of the forested areas in the new capital zone are categorized as “production forests.” This classification raises concerns about potential permits for forestry and extractive activities, contributing to further deforestation.

 (B) Cost associated with new capital in the prospect of global economic slow down

The anticipated completion of the new city is estimated to incur a total cost of $35 billion by the year 2045. The government has already allocated an investment of 32 trillion Rupiah to establish fundamental infrastructure, encompassing the construction of a dam and a toll road. However, the existing conditions pose potential risks, including conflicts of interest, allegations of mark-ups and kickbacks, legal repercussions, and possible delays in the capital relocation process.

(C)Widodo’s political tool to garner political support

The choice of name is intended to reflect President Joko Widodo’s “Indonesia-centric” push to spur development away from the island of Java, closer to the geographic center of the archipelago.

 (D) Exclusion not inclusion real face of new Indonesian capital

Concerns have been raised by the indigenous and local communities who fear the potential displacement of their homes and farmland. Additionally, residents of Borneo Island are apprehensive about the influx of new individuals into East Kalimantan, expressing anxieties about the impact on their local communities.

Analysis

Philippines to conduct ambitious exercises with the U.S. as concerns over China grow

Philippines to conduct ambitious exercises with the U.S. as concerns over China grow

The Philippines and the United States are gearing up for their most ambitious joint military exercise to date due to escalating tensions with China in the South China Sea. This year’s Balikatan drills, set to commence from April 22 to May 10, will see more than 16,000 soldiers conducting joint naval exercises beyond the Philippines’ territorial waters for the first time since the exercise’s inception in 1991. The expanded scope of the drills reflects growing concerns over Chinese activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea. These maneuvers will involve a joint command center coordinating four major activities focused on countering maritime and air threats.
Officials revealed that the exercises will feature operations such as the simultaneous securing of two islands along the Philippines’ western and northern coasts, followed by the deployment of High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers for live-firing exercises. Additionally, Philippine naval vessels will showcase a newly acquired ship-based missile system in coordination with U.S. Air Force squadrons, culminating in a simulated strike on a decommissioned vessel. The exercises aim to foster integration between Philippine and U.S. forces, bolstering their readiness as a unified fighting force.

Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, a spokesperson for the Philippine navy, stated that the drills convey a clear message: the Philippines is prepared to defend its sovereign rights and is not acting alone in safeguarding regional security. The increased military cooperation between the Philippines and the U.S. comes because of heightened tensions, particularly around strategic areas like the Second Thomas Shoal, where recent confrontations with China have raised concerns about potential conflict in the region.
The Biden administration’s commitment to the Philippines’ defense has been underscored by warnings that any armed attack against Philippine military vessels would trigger the U.S.-Philippine mutual defense treaty. President Biden reaffirmed the “ironclad” U.S. defense commitment during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s visit to Washington, highlighting the strategic importance of countering Chinese assertiveness in the region.
The deployment of U.S. medium-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region has further exacerbated tensions with China, marking the first such deployment since the Cold War era. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lin Jian, expressed grave concern over this move, denouncing it as a unilateral effort to enhance military advantage near China’s borders. The deployment, confirmed by the U.S. military on Monday, strategically positions a mid-range capability missile system on northern Luzon in the Philippines, within range of vital locations along China’s eastern coast.
Analysts view this deployment as a significant development with potential implications for regional security dynamics. Eric Heginbotham from MIT’s Center for International Studies highlighted the system’s role in countering Chinese military capabilities, particularly concerning Taiwan. Wilson Beaver of The Heritage Foundation emphasized that while the current deployment is limited, a more permanent presence of such systems could complicate Chinese military planning, especially regarding scenarios like an invasion of Taiwan.
The U.S. military’s strategic posture in the Pacific aligns with broader regional security goals, as emphasized by Commander Charles Flynn of the U.S. Army Pacific Command. Chinese officials have repeatedly voiced opposition to actions perceived as threatening regional peace and stability, citing concerns over heightened tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. Overall, these developments underscore the evolving dynamics and geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, with implications for broader security strategies and regional stability.

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Asia

In a significant move, India delivered BrahMos missiles to the Philippines

In a significant move, India delivered BrahMos missiles to the Philippines

Background

The BrahMos missile system, a collaborative endeavor between India and Russia, stands as a testament to the ingenuity and strategic foresight of both nations. Conceived in the late 1990s, the project aimed to develop a supersonic cruise missile capable of delivering precision strikes at incredible speeds. Named after the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers, it symbolizes the convergence of Indian and Russian expertise in defense technology. Over the years, the BrahMos missile has evolved into one of the world’s fastest and most versatile cruise missiles, showcasing the capabilities of Indo-Russian cooperation in the realm of defense.

Development of BrahMos missile system

The development journey of the BrahMos missile system has been characterized by innovation, collaboration, and strategic vision. Beginning with the conceptualization of a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya, the project aimed to harness the technological prowess of both nations to create a formidable weapon system. Through years of research, testing, and refinement, the BrahMos missile system emerged as a flagship project, demonstrating India’s indigenous technological capabilities and its ability to collaborate on complex defense projects with international partners.

The Genesis of BrahMos: From Concept to Reality

The genesis of the BrahMos project can be traced back to the late 1990s when India and Russia embarked on a journey to develop a supersonic cruise missile. Driven by the need to enhance India’s defense capabilities and bolster strategic deterrence, the project brought together the expertise of Indian and Russian scientists and engineers. The collaboration aimed to leverage the strengths of both nations in propulsion, guidance systems, and materials technology to create a missile system unlike any other. Named after two iconic rivers, the BrahMos missile symbolizes the synergy between India and Russia in pursuit of technological excellence and national security.

Strengthening Bilateral Ties: The India-Philippines Defense Deal

In January 2022, India and the Philippines signed a landmark defense deal worth US$ 375 million, laying the foundation for enhanced cooperation in defense technology and strategic partnership. Central to this agreement was the provision for the export of BrahMos missiles to the Philippines, marking a significant step in India’s defense diplomacy. The deal underscored India’s commitment to bolstering the defense capabilities of its allies in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in light of growing security challenges posed by regional adversaries. For the Philippines, the acquisition of BrahMos missiles represented a strategic investment in national security, providing the country with a potent deterrent against potential threats.

The Delivery: Bridging Distances, Strengthening Alliances

On a bright Friday morning, the skies above Manila witnessed a historic moment as an Indian Air Force C-17 Globe master jet descended, carrying the first batch of BrahMos missiles destined for the Philippines. The delivery, meticulously planned and executed, marked the culmination of years of negotiations, technical cooperation, and diplomatic efforts between India and the Philippines. Symbolizing the strength of bilateral ties and the shared commitment to regional security, the arrival of the BrahMos missiles in the Philippines sent a powerful message to allies and adversaries alike. With each missile launcher, radar unit, and command-and-control center, the Philippines bolstered its defense capabilities, ensuring a swift and decisive response to emerging threats in the region.

Unleashing BrahMos: A Game-Changer in Modern Warfare

The BrahMos missile system represents a paradigm shift in modern warfare, combining speed, precision, and versatility to deliver devastating blows to enemy targets. With a top speed of Mach 2.8, the BrahMos missile outpaces conventional cruise missiles, making it virtually impossible for adversaries to intercept or evade. Its ability to be launched from multiple platforms, including submarines, ships, aircraft, and land-based launchers, gives it unparalleled flexibility on the battlefield. For the Philippines, the acquisition of BrahMos missiles heralds a new era of defense capabilities, providing the country with a strategic edge in safeguarding its territorial integrity and national interests.

Global Interest: The BrahMos Phenomenon Goes International

The delivery of BrahMos missiles to the Philippines has sparked interest from other nations seeking to enhance their defense capabilities in the face of evolving security challenges. Countries like Argentina have expressed interest in acquiring BrahMos missiles from India, recognizing their unparalleled speed, range, and precision. The growing international interest in BrahMos missiles underscores their status as a game-changer in modern warfare and a symbol of technological prowess and strategic deterrence. As India expands its defense partnerships and strengthens its position as a net security provider in the Indo-Pacific region, the BrahMos missile system emerges as a key instrument of peace, stability, and deterrence.

End Note

The delivery of BrahMos missiles to the Philippines marks a significant milestone in India’s defense diplomacy and strategic outreach in the Indo-Pacific region. It underscores India’s commitment to strengthening bilateral ties, fostering regional security, and promoting peace and stability in the face of evolving security challenges. As the BrahMos missile system finds new homes across the globe, it serves as a testament to the ingenuity, innovation, and collaborative spirit of nations working together to safeguard shared interests and uphold the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. In an era defined by uncertainty and complexity, the BrahMos missile system stands as a beacon of hope, deterrence, and resilience, embodying the collective aspirations of nations to build a safer, more secure world for future generations.

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Analysis

Philippines, the United States, Australia, Japan to hold joint air and sea drills in South China Sea

Philippines, the United States, Australia, Japan to hold joint air and sea drills in South China Sea

In a significant move aimed at addressing China’s growing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea, the United States, Australia, Japan, and the Philippines have announced plans to conduct joint naval and air drills on April 7, 2024. This coordinated effort, named the “Maritime Cooperative Activity,” will be held within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and is strategically timed ahead of an upcoming trilateral summit involving US President Joe Biden and the leaders of the Philippines and Japan. The defense chiefs of these four nations emphasized that the joint exercise aims to showcase their collective commitment to increase regional and international cooperation in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

According to statements from the Japanese embassy in Manila, the drills will involve the participation of naval and air force units from all participating countries, focusing on enhancing interoperability in doctrines, tactics, techniques, and procedures, with a specific emphasis on anti-submarine warfare training. The decision to hold these joint drills and convene the upcoming summit follows ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, notably characterized by confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels near disputed reefs.

China has accused the Philippines of escalating tensions in the region, where longstanding maritime territorial disputes persist. In response, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed America’s unwavering commitment to defending the Philippines against armed attacks in the South China Sea, highlighting the shared commitment to uphold international law and ensure freedom of navigation.

Meanwhile, ongoing talks between the Philippines and Japan for a defense pact allowing troop deployment on each other’s territory reflect Manila’s efforts to strengthen partnerships because of regional challenges. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has emphasized the need for Japan to play a larger role in providing options and support to Southeast Asian countries, aligning with broader efforts to foster trilateral cooperation in various sectors, including technology and energy development, with the United States and the Philippines.

The upcoming joint naval and air operations in the disputed South China Sea signal a deepening of ties among the participating nations. This exercise highlights their collective commitment to regional stability and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific. China’s continued assertion of claims over contested waters, including those also claimed by the Philippines, Japan, and self-ruled Taiwan, has prompted the United States to strengthen alliances in the region, particularly with treaty allies Japan and the Philippines.

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