To build the world anew: Decolonization and cold war in Indonesia

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3 Citations (Scopus)


This article investigates the connection between the process of decolonization in Indonesia and the Cold War by proposing two main arguments. First, that the complex process of postcolonial nation-and-state building in Indonesia led to the establishment of "bebas-aktif" ("independent and active") foreign policy despite the efforts of the Great Powers to take Indonesia into their sphere of influence. This position came from the need to maintain the unity of the newly established state in the context of fierce competition between ideological groups in Indonesia. These included secular nationalists, Islamic nationalists, and communists, which began with the rise of nationalist movements in the Dutch East Indies and continued after independence in 1945. The second main argument of this article is that the Cold War shaped the trajectory of Indonesia's nation-and-state building process enormously. The Cold War calculation helped Indonesia to gain international recognition despite the Dutch ambition to keep its colonial possession. The narrative of Indonesia as a leader of Asian and African countries amidst the menacing domination of the great powers also lent credibility to the new state in the eyes of its people, as well as setting the normative limits of ideological competition inside the country. The Cold War also created disturbances in the nation-andstate building project, which manifested in several incidents that threatened the unity and even the very existence of the new nation. This culminated in the exclusion of communist groups from the national compromise required for nationand-state building.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-231
Number of pages23
JournalAsian Perspective
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Cold war
  • Decolonization
  • Foreign policy
  • Fragmentation
  • Indonesia


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