West Tabloid – The violence related to separatism in Papua seems to be never ending. Armed contact between separatist group and security apparatus in Papua has even taken the life of the local Chief of Regional Intelligence Agency (Kabinda) on 26 April 2021.The untimely death of Kabinda only adds to a long list of civilians and non civilians that had died in Papua due to the actions of separatist group.This serves as a reminder to Indonesian people on the threat to its security and territorial integrity that is real and ever present even though policymakers’ and the public’s attention is still fixated on the ongoing Covid pandemic.

This threat by Papuan pro separatists cannot be conceived merely through a local or national lens but shall be understood holistically through a transnational lens. In addition to several countries in Europe, Papua New Guinea and Australia have often been made as their safe haven and base of activities. Nonetheless, it base of activities. Nonetheless, it is Vanuatu, a micro archipelagic state in South Pacific, whose government has openly shown support for the independence of Papua, even facilitated the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) as the primary organizational vehicle of Papuan independence in international front, giving it greater legitimacy in the international community.

ULMWP applies two interrelated strategies in pushing for the independence of Papua.The first strategy is public campaign and propaganda aimed at harming the image, credibility, and standing of Indonesian government in the international world using digital technology and social media. Viral images and videos on violence allegedly committed by security apparatus are used by the separatist group as ammunition to discredite very step taken by the government to stabilize Papua, including through the revision of Special Autonomy Law (Otonomi Khusus ‘Jilid 2’). While the short term goal of this propaganda is to expose and spread information of human rights violations committed by Indonesian security apparatus in Papua, the final goal is,of course,to bolster narrative for the independence of Papua through referendum.

West Papua News – The second strategy by ULMWP closely interrelates with the first. Through propaganda, it aims to garner support for its movement from networks of prominent actors and groups at the global stage. To some extent, ULMWP has successfully obtained the support and endorsement from prominent religious actors, intellectuals,politicians, and humanitarian activists. Nobel laureate from South Africa,the cleric Desmond Tutu, is among those that has expressed support for the movement, whereas other actors include the renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky and journalist Allan Nair from the United States, and leftist politicians from Australia and New Zealand, especially those hailing from the Green Party.

The involvement of such actors, in addition to the support given by Vanuatu, contribute to accelerate the internationalization of the issue of Papua and West Papua. As a result, one can see in recent years that issues related to Papua have always surfaced in the United Nation’s General Assembly, backed primarily by Vanuatu and a couple of other South Pacific states such as Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Indonesia has consistently opposed and challenged the maneuvers of the separatist group using its state instruments, such as the security apparatus on the field and the diplomats in international fora such as the UN. While these have resulted in some success,the fact remains that the separatists are becoming more adept at utilizing both the instruments of ‘hard’ and‘soft power’ in furthering its political aim. This fact presents a challenge that shall not be taken lightly by the government of Indonesia.

Diplomasi Semesta As A Paradigm

The issue of separatism necessitates a total diplomacy or ‘diplomasi semesta’. According to former Governor of Indonesian National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas), Budi Susilo Soepandji, diplomasi semesta shall be rooted in the networks of national and international community network so it can achieve greater multiplier effect in furthering Indonesia’s national interests. In diplomasi semesta, there is a continuity and cohesion in terms of the understanding and interactions between foreign policy stakeholders and other national stakeholders in meeting Indonesia’s external geopolitical challenges.

The first step in the context of diplomasi semesta in facing the challenge of Papuan separatism is to re orient its projection of geostrategic influence towards Asia Pacific – Oceania.With a Melanesian population of 13 million spread across five provinces in Indonesia (Papua, West Papua, Maluku, North Maluku, and East Nusa Tenggara) – much higher that the combined total population of other Melanesian countries in the Pacific such as Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu,Solomon Islands, and Fiji that reaches about 10 million people – it is time for Indonesia to play a more central role in leading the Melanesian nations in the Pacific.

Presently, Indonesia is an ‘associate member’ of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and an‘observer ’in the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). Indonesia certainly faces a choice of whether it will mobilize its political and financial resources to form a new forum, or to use existing platform of cooperation in furthering its national interests. Determination,consistency and creativity, and innovation are needed in charting these diplomatic options. One thing remains clear though, Indonesia shall continue to spearhead efforts to be a driving force of progress and a central voice in the Pacific through various forums.

The innovation of Ambassador Tantowi Yahya in creating the Pacific Elevation shows that a non formal and nonbinding initiative, with an open room of discussion and wide scope of cooperation can bean alternative model of approach to the Pacific countries. While the issue of Papua shall lie at the heart of Indonesia’s projection of interest in the Pacific, it shall not over look other important aspects that can provide bigger leverage in attaining such strategic goal, such as people to people relations, and cooperation in the realm of economy, natural resources, and maritime security.

From an economic perspective, the scale, capacity, and capability of Indonesia far surpasses the Pacific island countries. The combined total Gross Domestic Product of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu,and Solomon Islands, for instance,is only about 30 percent of that of Indonesia. With such big economic capacity, all relevant stakeholders in Indonesia, state and non state actors,including business groups, shall reassessexisting economic partnerships with and any opportunities in these countries. In 2019, the government of Indonesia has established what is known as the‘Indonesian AID’. This agency shall strategically be utilized as an instrument to fulfill Indonesia’s national interest, especially in upholding Indonesia’s sovereignty and dignity, as well as supporting Indonesia national development agenda and strengthening Indonesia’s bilateral relations with other countries.

Furthermore, through diplomasi semesta, Indonesia shall effectively engage and empower every national element, particularly community of Indonesian citizen sand students abroad. Various nodes and networks of Indonesian student organization abroad shall beem powered as the nation’s ‘envoy’in the context of people to people diplomacy, particularly with regards to the issue of Papua. Indonesian diaspora community, together with Indonesian students abroad, holda great potential as intellectual agents to help build a positive image of Indonesia. In this context, they can foster discussions and talks among foreign community to impart a more balanced and objective understanding of issues happening in Papua and prevent negative news and propaganda by separatist group to become the dominant narrative.

In addition, diplomasi semesta shall put forward socio cultural aspect in approaching the issue of Papua as an instrument of ‘soft power’. In this context, the Indonesian government shall continuously make an effort to introduce and make more well known the culture of Papua and Eastern Indonesia to the world. Again,Indonesian students abroad and the diaspora Indonesian community can play a big role in this respect.

Through diplomasi semesta, both Indonesia as a nation and its national leaders shall muster all strength and harness the potential of networks in the realm politics, economy, and socio cultural to amicably solve the issue of Papua once and for all.

* 1. PhD Candidate at Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian
National University
* 2. PhD Candidate at Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian
National University.Supervisory Board Member of PPI Dunia 2021-2022
and Advisory Board Member of PPI Australia 2021-2022.