1 Introduction

This chapter analyses core interrelated trajectories of discourses and policies around Indonesia’s recent paradigmatic ‘oceanic’ transition. We do this by tracing the different ideas and concepts around Wawasan Nusantara, looking at the political relevance as well as translation attempts and ideological interpretations of the concept from a historical perspective. Against this background, we will then analyse Indonesia’s more recent ideas of a maritime nation as a future engine of development and address their translation in three different areas of policy – industrialisation, science and research, and urbanization.Footnote 1 We also analyze the potentiality for strengthening Nusantara-based ideas with the broadly discussed plan to relocate capital functions to east Kalimantan as potential game changer and as a trigger of development transformation. Thus, the chapter contributes to discussions on ocean governance, in particularly the nexus of maritime policy and regional socio-economic development in the Indonesian context. Furthermore, it will also elaborate the relevance of the notion of regional ocean governance (UNEP 2016) and Ocean Economy Agenda (OECD 2016) to Indonesian development.

From early childhood, Indonesians are raised with the awareness that they are part of a vast archipelagic community that has historically been shaped by fishing and seafaring. The folk song “Nenek Moyangku Seorang Pelaut”, composed by Ibu Sud in 1940, is a song learnt by most elementary students at primary education stage to “introduce them to the glory of their ancestors, who have been described as brave sailors who explored and sailed the vast ocean” (Iswatiningsih and Fauzan 2021, p. 216). As by the time Indonesia was still under Dutch colonial rule, the lyrics of the song were also meant to encourage and inspire Indonesia’s young people to fight and defend the Indonesian seas (Titiek Suliyati 2012).

In 1982, the once critical Indonesian musician and now cultural icon, Iwan Fals, also composed a song that bemoaned a changing ocean from the 1960s when he was child, right up until the 1980s, when he discovered how his surrounding ocean was being progressively polluted. Both these songs are examples of a vast corpus of popular works of art inspired by oceanic thinking and imagination. Some of them can be seen as a reaction to devide et impera politics of Dutch colonial rule that instrumentalized and reinforced the multiple island identities of the archipelago. In contrast, late colonial and post-Independence Indonesian politicians tried to establish the idea of the ocean as an integrator, not separator by enlivening the vernacular concept of ‘Nusantara’ and its more applied aspect ‘Wawasan Nusantara’.

(Wawasan) Nusantara is an all-encompassing notion and a fundamental concept for Indonesian geopolitics, to address ideology, politics, economy, sociocultural, security opportunities and challenges (Situmorang (2013). Etymologically, the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education of Indonesia (2016) explains the word as a combination of two words, i.e., “Nusa” and “Antara” (pp. 212–213). In Sanskrit, “Nusa” means island or archipelago, while “Antara” can be interpreted as the sea, across or outside. In Latin, it suggests that “Nusa” comes from the word “Nesos”, which means peninsula or nation, while “Antara” might have the equivalent meaning with the word “in” and “terra” taken to mean “between” or “within a group.” In English, “Nusa” and “Antara” may bear similar resonance with the words “nation” and “inter”, respectively. Based on that explanation, the Ministry notes that the merging of the words “Nusa” and “Antara” into the word “Nusantara” could be interpreted as an archipelago between seas, or nations connected by the sea.

Lestari (2018) argues that the word “Nusantara” was first recorded in medieval Javanese literature (around the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries) to describe the concept of a state adopted by a kingdom called “Majapahit” (pp. 57–58). In the context of Majapahit Kingdom, she describes that the State has been divided into three regional categories, i.e., “Negara Agung”; “Mancanegara”; and “Nusantara”. “Negara Agung” was the area around the royal capital where the king reigned. “Mancanegara” were areas on the island of Java and its surrounding border areas whose folk culture was similar to “Negara Agung”. “Nusantara” was an area outside the influence of Javanese culture but was still claimed as an area subject to the “Majapahit” Kingdom, where the ruler must pay tribute. Santoso et al. (2020) posits that the medieval Javanese literary book Kitab Pararaton indirectly mentions that a prime minister (locally noted as “Patih”) of the Majapahit Kingdom called Gajah Mada declared an oath to the kingdom dignitaries, known as “Sumpah Palapa” or “amukti palapa” (p. 46). In analyzing the oath, it was stated that the majesticity of Gajah Mada would not come to pass until “Nusantara” was unified under the rule of the Majapahit Empire. A translated excerpt of Gajah Mada’s oath is as follows:

Sira Gajah Mada patih Amangkubhumi tan ayun amukti palapa, sira Gajah Mada: “Lamun huwus kalah nusantara isun amukti palapa, lamun kalah ring Gurun, ring Seran, Tanjung Pura, ring Haru, ring Pahang, Dompo, ring Bali, Sunda, Palembang, Tumasik, samana isun amukti palapa.”

[He Gajah Mada Patih Amangkubumi (prime minister) did not want to break his fast. He Gajah Mada: “If I have subdued the entire archipelago under Majapahit rule, I will (only) break my fast. If I defeat Gurun, Seram, Tanjung Pura, Haru, Pahang, Dompo, Bali, Sunda, Palembang, Tumasik, that’s how I (will) break the fast”.] (cited and translated from lestari 2018, p. 57)

As a counter-discursive maritime narrative, the concept was further popularized by Ki Hajar Dewantara, a national leader on education in early twentieth century. He revived the term Nusantara to contest and replace the colonial imaginary of the Dutch East Indies. During and after independence, Nusantara – as a vernacular term – gained increasing attention and support, and was complemented by the more politically practicable concept of Wawasan Nusantara. Wawasan Nusantara entails a mindset or paradigm of Indonesian nationalism that, until today, carries the ideological purchase in strategizing Indonesia’s environment, reconfiguring imagination(s) of unified nationhood, while moving towards regional integration for achieving nationally determined goals. However, it was the Djuanda Declaration 13 December 1957 that set the historical moment of the re-creationing Wawasan Nusantara, as a political doctrine and vision, aimed at reclaiming the once Territoriale Zee Maritiem Kringen Ordinatie boundaries set by the Dutch colonials.Footnote 2 In general, Djuanda’s declaration states that Indonesia adheres to the principles of the Archipelagic State so that the seas between islands are also the territory of the Republic of Indonesia and are not free areas (Ernawati 2015). Although initially contested geopolitically (e.g., by the USA and Britain), the conception of Wawasan Nusantara (from an archipelagic perspective) as reflected in the Juanda Declaration, was legally strengthened in Indonesia under Law No. 4/Prp 1960 concerning Indonesian Waters (Kusumaatmadja 2001 cited in Nurhidayati 2021, p. 45)

Since then, the sea territories of Indonesia were enlarged, and this was globally acknowledged during the Geneva’s Maritime Law Conference in 1978. Furthermore, the concept of Indonesia as an Archipelagic State was internationally recognized after the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ratified on December 10, 1982, and Indonesia further ratified it under Law No. 17 of 1985Footnote 3 (Shalihah 2016). Shortly after, the concept of Wawasan Nusantara was formally accepted by UNCLOS. Since Indonesia’s post-Soeharto Reformation Era, Wawasan Nusantara was emplaced within the long-term development planning agenda (Law 17/2007). From its earliest definitions in national regulations, Wawasan Nusantara as a doctrine aimed at reshaping collective political identity and meanings of nationhood: “the perspective and attitude of Indonesian people in understanding oneself and his/her diverse environment and with strategic values, by forefronting the unity of the nation through living as a community and as a nation to reach the national goals.” (Indonesian Archipelagic Vision 2013).

The translation of Wawasan Nusantara into development discourse has been highly dynamic and depended on the priorities of development regimes over time. After UNCLOS 1982, there was no specific national direction to explore or articulate maritime issues, except through a conventionally-oriented maritime focus on national security, transportation, and oil and gas mining. During the Orde Baru regime,Footnote 4 Indonesia achieved major successes in rice production through socio-economic change concentrated primarily on Java Island, and a shift towards a more agriculture-dominated development path focusing on rice production and its export. Since 1998, during the Reformation Era, the focus on marine resources has been continuously expanded. President Abdurrahman Wahid (1999–2001) established the Ministry of Ocean Exploration that has been extended in 2000, now renamed as the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries.Footnote 5 Under President Joko Widodo (2014–present), the vision to develop the nation from the outer islands has been advanced, and the idea of Indonesia as a global maritime axis has been articulated in political discourse. Widodo further established the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime AffairsFootnote 6 to facilitate the cross-sectoral development issues coordination. This dynamic translation demonstrates that there is no blueprint on how Wawasan Nusantara is actually filled with life in the different phases of Indonesia’s shift from an agriculture to a maritime state.

2 Wawasan Nusantara, Past and Present

Out of the many transcultural vernacular concepts emerging from oceanic human history, is the beguiling and oft-romanticized notion of ‘Nusantara’, suggesting a shared identity that spans the Indo-Malay Archipelago, geographically the largest of its kind, until the farthest reaches of the Southeast Asian region. The concept itself appears as an empty signifier in Laclau’s (2017) sense of the term – easily filled with different meanings and used as a shorthand reference by historians and other scholars to allude to ‘maritime’ Southeast Asia. In popular history, imaginaries interpret the idea of Nusantara as long journey in human civilization and modern nation-building across archipelagic Indonesia and beyond. Its various narratives were historically documented and retold by the Kutai and Srivijaya Kingdoms, and long after, by the Majapahit Empire (1293–1527) that took control of maritime trade routes across the archipelago. Ancestral identities were closely associated to seafaring and the ability to cross the ocean. Trade activity in the high seas at that time was largely patterned by the growing historic demand for spices and other rare commodities. Precolonial and colonial cities as trading hubs grew across Indonesia, mostly along archipelagic coastlines. Oceanic connectivity, thus remained the prerogative in securing local and regional political influence over the course of its pre- and colonial history, thus lending privileged value to certain sites that became centers of power, trade, and socio-cultural exchange.

Besides Batavia in early nineteenth century, there were several kingdoms (for example Paser) that grew because of inter-insular trading. Known for its gold mining and forest resources from East Kalimantan, Paser was famously known for the Sadurangas Kingdom that existed in the fifteenth century. Mining and timber trading led to the development of riverine and sea transportation networks over time, further expanding its reach during Dutch colonialism. Traditional ships and vessels such as the Pinishi and the Pencalang from Siak Riau were manufactured, with each island possessing its own ‘brand’ of ship. Pre-colonial coastal settlements also evolved through water sensitive design and engineering coupled with traditional architectural forms, such as Bajau houses Sulawesi and the Gadang dwellings known in southern coastal Sumatra. Those examples show that Indonesian port-cities were places in which archipelagic sea – based cultures and urbanization met and thrived.

Yet, a curious paradox remains – the seemingly conceptual disconnect between archipelagic thinking and hubbing on the one, and the theorization of contemporary coastal life on the other. In the context of Java and the region on the whole, Southeast Asia has been conceptually divided between its ‘mainland’ and ‘insular’, the littoral and the hinterlands. By extension, socio-economic activity too was imaginatively separated in terms of the agrarian and its maritime other – constituting seafaring and trade, naval enterprise, commercial fishing, etc. While the watery bodies materially divided, they also constituted shared cultural borderlands of diverse kinds of exchange over the course of history. Might Nusantara then, also serve as both metaphor and method with which to counter land-locked paradigms in container thinking, and seeing spaces as capsular territories, and as mere transport surfaces and routeways? In a contemporary sense, the oceanic – replete with its fluid expansiveness, depths, and seafloor voluminalities– have long been critically theorized as economic and bio-frontiers, while shoreline beaches and oceans themselves have lent themselves as neoliberal playgrounds and sites for late-capitalist resource extraction. A vastly different and historically flecked metaphor appears in the case for Nusantara – the revisioning and melding of ocean as an economic engine and that of postcolonial nation-building. Drawing on recent concepts from the social and cultural sciences on the study of land-sea continuums (Steinberg 2001; Steinberg and Peters 2015), the territorialisation of seas and coasts (Campling and Colás 2018; Foley and Mather 2019), and amphibious lifeworlds (Krause 2017) we are particularly interested in how the discursive shift of an essentially cultural (Nusantara) into an ideological concept (Wawasan Nusantara) is reflected through actual changes in the negotiation of policies.

But what does Nusantara stand to signify as a historically-embedded and as a culturally ‘lived’ concept? How much of a shadowy backdrop has the sea and maritime life been relegated to in the postcolonial Indonesian imaginary? Despite its older origin, Nusantara as an imaginary took root arguably in the early twentieth century when Ernest Douewes Dekker (or Setiabudi), the Indo-Dutch politician and nationalist offered up Nusantara as a name for the independent country of Indonesia, far removed from its former echoes to the Dutch East Indies (Evers 2016).

Since, the Wawasan Nusantara doctrine has been consistently introduced across many layers of public education, from formal schools to official public officer trainings, as well as military training. The idea however leans more towards securing the risk of the Indonesian state’s multiple disintegrations and calls for island(ed) autonomy. The doctrine is embedded in the Parliamentary Decision (Ketetapan MPR) in 1999, which stated that Wawasan Nuasantara is a way to view and comprehend oneself and the society that aims at the unity of the nation. There are in fact two explicit objectives of the doctrine, both internally (inward for Indonesians) and externally, which is rather reflecting the role of the State in the global connectedness and connectivity. The external role however is rather addressing the importance to maintain peace and stability, social justice and equal respect on each sovereignty. In other words, it was not part of the doctrine to view Nusantara beyond the State. Together with the concept of ‘Tanah Air’, Nusantara resonates a deep meaning of homeland or motherland that comes together as a unified entity of a nation. Tanah Air is rooted in the Malay language, and consists of two fundamental elements of the archipelago; tanah (soil or land) and air (water, pronounced ah-yer), meaning that both elements were inseparably intertwined. The concept of ‘maritime’ explicitly blends the two, of which sea, rivers and lands construct the culture and the way of living of people dwelling in the “motherland” Indonesia.

The integrated concept of land-water at a micro level and Wawasan Nusantara at the macro level has been used to reimagine “maritime” mindset of a built infrastructural environment. The scope of both the concepts taken in concert, bear far-reaching implications, from influencing how people build their houses in adapting to wetland environments while connecting spaces through various water-based transportation options. The imperative is then that urban development in Indonesia thus should not only be dominated by land-based development, but should harmonize spaces and places that crosscut both land and water. As time goes by, these archipelagic imaginaries were expected to organically co-evolve with distinct community-based coastal lifeworlds. Littoral sensibilities were further expected to influence hinterland-based communities that re-settled in coastal areas that offered economic opportunities due to the agglomeration of industries, including port facilities and warehouses. Therefore, the Indonesian government initially coined the term “Wawasan Nusantara” drawing from interpretations of antiquity and its precolonial narratives, mining what was seen as the strategic geopolitical and geostrategic needs of Indonesia, while being further ‘translated’ to appeal to national ideology and the realpolitik of communal identity-making, defence and security.

Yet the puzzle that remained was that Javanese culture was irremovably more agrarian-oriented and land-based in its outlook towards the hinterland, marked by lush terrain and volcanicscapes. Still, Indonesia has continued to shift its narrative from being that of an ‘agricultural’ to a ‘maritime’ nation in the past decades. The next section tries to unpick the very rationales and narrative shifts witnessed in materially reimaging new built environments – as urban coast transforms and transposes into the urban riverine. Even more importantly, we try to sketch how in political discourses, a transition has taken place to strengthen the maritime elements of a new economic strategy.

3 Indonesia’s Maritime Vision as Future Economic Engine

If we go from Aceh to Lampung through the east coast corridor, and continue on to northern coastal Java, we can identify that most of the major cities in Indonesia are located in both corridors. More than 50 % of the population resides in coastal areas. However, for the last 30 years, most of the development throughout Indonesia draws on the Javanese developmental experience as a reference point. The expansion of paddy fields and rice-led agriculture through Soeharto’s transmigration policy in 1980s had profoundly transformed original food, nutritional and dietary habits of the other islands, creating a high dependency on rice (cf. Manning 1987). These changes were also witnessed in state provided housing development programs that favoured hinterland-based housing designs. These architectural forms proved markedly different from those of Marind Anim, Bajau, and Maluku homes often built on stilts, many offer to be taken as examples of ‘amphibious’ construction, favouring tidal flows and other forms of coastal flooding (Manurung 2014; Wahyudi et al. 2022).

Numerous policy-oriented scholars, Delima et al. (2019), Karim (2019), Son Diamar (2021), Jompa (2022) have normatively suggested that Indonesia should re-define or strengthen its political identity as a ‘maritime nation’, while drawing on its plans of relocating its capital city as an intrinsic part of a momentum to reach these ambitions. Alamsyah (2010) harks back to the time in which Indonesia had an active role in UNCLOS 1982, thereby settling questions of sovereignty spanning surface and seabed marine space in relation to its oceanic natural resources. Further arguments pointed towards the development potential of marine resources and a re-centring of maritime culture, formerly downplayed during Indonesia’s first post-Independence development trajectory. There were also further calls in exploring how the interface between the sea and its coastal cities can be developed. For example, Baumeister (2020) conceptualizes sea cities as an urban adaptive tactic in attending to the urgency of sea level rise. Arguments have been made favouring the development of amphibious and aquatic floating infrastructures, to mining opportunities afforded by an oceanic-driven ‘blue economy’ (Alamsyah 2004). Yet, the choice of location in moving the administrative arm of Jakarta City arguably hinders further possibilities for ‘sea city’ development and that of an ocean economy, given its emplacement in east Kalimantan. Among different reasons, the bad experiences of coastal risks management in Jakarta and the future prediction of Jakarta Bay have been raised (VOI 2021) why to select the location that far from the sea.

In close connection with the described political-ideological definitions of a maritime identity for Indonesia, concrete efforts have been made in recent years to establish a maritime development strategy for the economic growth of the country. With the term “maritime fulcrum”, there were efforts to infuse a maritime vision to long-term development planning by creating a so-called ‘Navigation towards National Maritim’ or Haluan Maritim Nasional (HMN), initiated by the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs, which engaged several ministries under their coordination. It is expected that the HMN will provide Indonesia with a 2045 Maritime Vision as a world’s maritime fulcrum.Footnote 7 Within this Indonesian Maritime Vision 2045, Indonesia is looking to navigate its development as the World’s Maritime Fulcrum which includes core sectors of maritime development: maritime transportation, maritime tourism, fisheries and mining. Yet considering urban development, the State of Indonesian Cities 2017 (Kementerian PUPR 2018) recounts 21 metropolitan spaces demarcated by law. Of these, 18 of them are littoral; nine metropolitan areas alone are located in the Island of Java. Yet, the national economy is still highly dependent on Java Island. The dense concentration of population and infrastructure still remains very “Javanese-centric” in its outlook, resulting in veritable socio-political and cultural biases, especially in reducing the regional disparity.

In the last decade, initial development policies to integrate the many islands of Nusantara were, for example, demonstrated by Masterplan of Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI in Bahasa Indonesia acronym). This masterplan was legalized under the Presidential Regulation No. 1/2011 and followed the basic idea to connect the major island through economic corridors. The corridors build upon the road or railway network and serve the industrial zones, agribusiness, tourism destination, and cities. Based on MP3EI, it is expected that this corridor can work to increase job employment and investments. However, the connectivity between islands has not yet developed as planned. Multi-modal interaction between sea-land transportation still remains to occur at high logistic costs.

Under the Joko Widodo Presidency, the idea to integrate Nusantara came from the opposite direction – from outside Java. Joko Widodo aimed to initiate and support economic development from the outer islands, state-border areas, and underdeveloped regions. He argued that those regions required strong intervention from the government compared to the existing metropolitan or strong economic areas that can be facilitated through cooperation between government and private sectors. In the last 5 years, there were many infrastructural projects that developed in those regions, such as harbours, airports, road networks, and water irrigation. In the second term, he also sharpened the vision of a Global Maritime Axis (PMD or Poros Maritim Dunia in Bahasa Indonesia acronym) that he instigated in his first phase in office commencing with the development of a sea toll.Footnote 8 Subsequently, he signed the Presidential Regulation No. 16/2017 concerning an Indonesian Ocean Policy, including a corresponding action plan. Opportunities to capitalize on the geopolitical and geo-strategic location of Indonesia are also mentioned as the reason why PMD should be implemented. But in the initial steps of its implementation, there were challenges in balancing the volume of trading from the western to eastern parts of Indonesia. We argue that the huge gap in logistical demand proved to be one of the biggest challenges. Again, Nusantara connectivity still appears to be mired by economic gaps and old land-locked path dependencies.

The main difference – and dissonance – between MP3EI and PMD appears with respect to connectivity (Fig. 15.1). The impression that is shown from both pictures is easily contrasted against the arrows that denote movement and connectivity. MP3EI provides policy directions that increase land connectivity, promote defensive-oriented strategies, and offer inter-city linkages and other development nodes or hubs. On the other hand, the PMD promotes policy directions related to sea connectivity, proactive ‘offensive-oriented’ strategies while emphasizing port-city development. MP3EI thus focuses on the mainland, while the PMD attempts to develop sea-land connectivity. The latter is therefore closer to achieving the vision of Wawasan Nusantara and is more suggestive of a holistic translation from the top-brass of Indonesian leadership with respect to a more acute understanding of Indonesia’s archipelagic geo-strategic and geo-political position. Taking this line of reasoning, national development planning is crucial in entrenching opportunities that at the same time minimize potential challenges by establishing the inter-connectivity of land and sea as a response for enacting an offensive-oriented ‘game plan’ in the region.

Fig. 15.1
Two illustrations are of maps that display various locations with arrows and lines. All the texts are in foreign languages.

Masterplan of Economic Development 2011 (MP3EI in Bahasa Indonesia Acronym) (above) and Global Maritime Axis 2014 (PMD in Bahasa Indonesia Acronym) (bottom) (Source: MP3EI Report, 2011 and Bappenas/PT.Pelindo in Indonesia.go.id)

Furthermore, the strategy to develop Indonesia as maritime fulcrum is also supported by the claimed transition from an agricultural state to a global maritime country. In his speech on October 24, 2016, President Joko Widodo stated that:

We must work harder to reclaim Indonesia as a maritime country. Oceans, straits, and bays are our future civilization. We have ignored for them too long. It is the time to give back, so Jalesveva Jayamahe (trans: ocean is our glory), as was our ancestors’ motto in the past, that returns as an echo. (Joko Widodo, translated by Author, 20 October 2014).

As mentioned, the first phase witnessed numerous infrastructure developments for increasing the regional connectivity and competitiveness of small islands groupings.. It was anticipated that the economic impacts of those infrastructures would not be short-lived.Footnote 9 Yet, statistics show that the Gross Domestic Regional Production (GDRP) of Java Island still dominates the national GDRP. If we look at the population share compared to 2014, the proportion of Java was still 56.9% of the national population. GDRP only slightly decreased from 56.7% (2016) to 56.2% (2020). In the industrial sectors, the number of mid- and large-scale industries is still Java-dominated as well (Fig. 15.2). Only 10–15% is shared with Kalimantan and other regions. It shows that the industrial transformation to outside of Java is needed, especially to Kalimantan where the new capital will be located.

Fig. 15.2
A bar of the mid and large industries growth in the years 2014, 2018, and 2019. The 3 bars represent Java, Kalimantan, and Indonesia. The highest bar level is 30.115 for Indonesia in 2018, and the lowest bar level is 4.77 in 2014 for Kalimantan.

Mid and Large Industries Growth in Java and Kalimantan Island. (Source: BPS Indonesia, 2014, 2018, 2019)

However, when looking at the growth of special economic zones (SEZ), there are hints that some of the strategic decisions yield mixed results. In the first period (2014–2019), the total SEZ in 2018 was 12 areas, with only one in Java Island and the rest in the other islands. However, in the second period (2019–now), the number of SEZs is growing to 19 areas and six of them are in Java Islands. In the last three years, the number of SEZs in Java increased by five areas, while there were only three outside of Java. Therefore, it is apparently the strategy of economic de-concentration to include areas outside Java that still remains a challenge. It is obvious that the business sectors still consider Java Island as the most suitable area for investment.

Figure 15.3 below shows that the international shipping or sea-trading lane that had been established since UNCLOS 1982. The purple line denotes an international sea lane of Indonesia as the potential trigger to develop global port cities in the future. The figure indicates that from a transportation policy angle, numerous cities along the coast (marked with red dots) are strengthened to connect with the international shipping lanes (marked by purple lines), thus showing the relationality between the marine economy (primarily through shipping), and its concomitant port cities, especially the lane between Kalimantan and Sulawesi Island (Makassar Strait) where the new capital located. It should be a opportunity to develop a maritime urban corridor.

Fig. 15.3
A map displays the sea lanes of Indonesia. The labels on the map legend are the new capital, main road, major cities, and international sea lane.

International Sea Lanes of Archipelagic Indonesia (Source: Author, 2022, modified from various sources)

Both figures underline that the economic policies towards an ocean-centric development have been mainly implemented by developing industries and SEZ, and various sea infrastructures outside of Java. The competitiveness through infrastructures thereby remains the key transformational strategy. However, the economic indicators show the slow response of the market to capture the immense infrastructural potential outside Java, and a maritime vision that reduces regional disparity.

We have seen that there are first signs of improvement in many regions outside of Java. Yet, the basic regional economy structure of land-based enterprise (e.g., plantations and agriculture) and agro-based industries have not changed. However, in the cultural dimension, the Ministry of Education and Culture has enlivened the history of Nusantara’s former spice route by connecting old port cities. In the Jalur rempah-rempah Nusantara website, the program demonstrates the effort to trace back old routes and to reorient future routes of rempah-rempah. Port cities serve as hubs and centers of collection and distribution, and emerge as key actors.

In his second term, under the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime and Investment (MMI), Mr. Luhut Panjaitan advanced and continued policies towards becoming ‘maritime nation’. The MMI kicked off the preparation by making the national document titled ‘2045 National Maritime Direction’ (Haluan Maritim Nasional 2045 in Bahasa Indonesia) on September 21, 2021 in Jakarta (Kemenkomarves 2021a, b). The vision is to develop Indonesia as the centre of the largest maritime-based ‘civilization’ in the world. It is expected that this document will be mainstreamed into the national long-term development planning (RPJPN in Bahasa Indonesia acronym). The RPJPN 2025–2045 will be launched by 2025.

Again, the maritime vision in this second term faces challenges in the structure of national budget expenditure. In the period of 2014–2019, the range of government budget for Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries (MOF) was only IDR 6–10 trillion or USD 70–130 million, compared to total expenditure in 2014 of about IDR 1800 trillion (Ophelia 2019). According to the Chairman of Ocean Commission at the time, the budget is still insufficient: By 2019, it was decreased, only reaching IDR 5 trillion or USD 60 million. In sea-transportation sectors, the budget allocation has been increasing slightly, if compared to 2016 (IDR 11.24 trillion), and then in 2019 (IDR 12.84 trillion). The increasing budget allocation does not yet cover the marine tourism, marine energy, and other industries. Therefore, the shifting focus to capture the ocean economy opportunity is still taking more time at the programming level.

However, the presence of the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime and Investment indicates the seriousness of the central government in pursuing maritime transformation. It is shown by the active presence of Indonesia in High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy and the cooperation with UNDP in making the Indonesia’s Blue Financing Strategic Document (Kemenkomarves 2021a, b). It means that blue economy is perceived as a concept to use the potential economic resources in an effective and sustainable way, avoiding pollution activities and overexploitation.

4 Translations of a “Maritime Indonesia” into Science Policy

Predictably, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic in 2020 contributed to a professed slow-down in debates around the maritime fulcrum and the implementation of Wawasan Nusantara into politically actionable steps. Still, we argue that Nusantara and the other ideological notions of developing a shared “maritime” Indonesian identity and development model continues to impact goal-setting agendas of other sectors and policy fields.

One policy area that has continually captured political imagination is that of national science research and science policy. With regard to maritime research activities, Indonesia’s role continues to be marginal compared to the output of other G20 countries. Augy Syahailatua, Director for the Research Center for Oceanography at BRINFootnote 10 (National Research and Innovation Agency) shared his opinion in Kompas News,Footnote 11 arguing that although national maritime research emerged 115 years ago, the value added of maritime research in Indonesia had yet to deliver significant impacts on the development progress of the nation, mostly due to the low number of marine-focused scientists, and the lack of concerted research work in the country of which 95% of its territories comprise waters and sea. He noted that merely 1000 of academia/university lecturers in 108 Fisheries and Maritime faculties, and only 500 marine researchers, were found to be scattered across different research organizations. The Oceanography Research Center (then still under LIPI, see footnote), had developed the 2020–2035 Foresight of Maritime Research, but it appeared that the foresight paper was rather looking inward on how the research institute could potentially contribute to the vision of the Maritime Fulcrum or a Blue Indonesian vision – much in line with BRIN’s overall research strategies.

The Foresight document reviewed the topics of potential future research, past research efforts, and the gaps between the two. Nevertheless, the investments in marine research are merely 0.25% of the national Gross Domestic Products (GDP) in 2017 (Ariana et al. 2017). It is relatively small proportion, compared to for example Norway, as one of the leading countries in maritime industry, with a share of 2.5% of the national GDP in 2017 (Koilo 2021). The foresight also incorporated the analysis on the Indonesian Relative Competitive Advantages (RCA) of marine research. Several topics have moderately high RCA such as marine biodiversity, coastal ecosystem research and governance. While on the other hand, research conducted by LIPI related with marine biotechnology, oceanography, ocean warming, ocean safety and deep-sea research are relatively sparse. These are typically the domains of marine research that require substantial and long term investments of research, particularly in funding. Although the foresight aimed at achieving a transformative process and becoming a new research frontier (between 2031 and 2035) through strengthening industrialized oceanography, the assumed roles are again, relatively inward looking, with the absence of ideas on expanding leadership beyond Indonesia, attending only to the imagined Maritime Fulcrum. It would be prudent to then challenge the scientific foundation of maritime governance, and how it was translated to the Wawasan Nusantara or the views of Nusantara doctrine in everyday life. And the expansion of knowledge and shifting of boundaries are also not supported, as argued by Syahailatua, by strong knowledge and scientific productions and investments in the maritime domain (LIPI 2017).

Also, the policies around disaster risk management could be a potential alley into strengthening the maritime focus of Indonesia. The strategic role of Indonesia in ASEAN’s disaster response policies might change the course of the vision, learning how the region is prone to external dependencies after a disaster occurred, for example in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that hit Indonesia, Malaysia and posed threats to Singapore or the 2008 Nargis Cyclone in Myanmar (Gottlieb 2019). The establishment of AHA Center (ASEAN Humanitarian Assistances) was in fact politically driven by the Indonesian key actors and accepted through the ASEAN conventions as part of the campaign of One ASEAN identity, including one joint response for disasters. Indonesia placed its geopolitical interests in the initiative and offered to host the secretariat and the Operation Center of AHA in Jakarta, where mobilizations of resources are managed, by agreements from all ASEAN member states (Luu and Rafliana 2021).

Similarly, in the climate change negotiation, the government of Indonesia is convinced that coastal mangrove and marine ecosystems are natural assets that can contribute to the future economic development through carbon markets. The enabling environment for this mechanism has opened through Presidential Regulation No. 98 Year 2021 concerning carbon economic value to achieve NDC. The regulation states that the climate change mitigation action on blue carbon is managed by the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries. According to Alongi et al. (2016), “Indonesia’s seagrasses and mangroves conservatively account for 3.4 Pg C, roughly 17 % of the world’s blue carbon reservoir”. The government also argues that there is a slowing down of deforestation in the last decade. Still, the transition of energy policy to renewable and clean energy to reduce carbon emission is needed to be accelerated. In the NDC, the mix of primary energy will be composed by 34% coal, 25% gas, 8% oil, and 33% of other non-renewable energy sources by 2050. Therefore, not only green development but the blue economy is also considered as the direction of regional economy. At the COP 26 in Glasgow, President Joko Widodo informed that Indonesia was honored to circulate a joint statement with leaders of the Archipelago and Small Island State (AIS) forum to advance maritime cooperation and climate action at UNFCCC (Setkab 2021).

As a final area of policy intervention, we will turn our attention to the relocation of the capital of Indonesia. Since the maritime vision has been brought for the last seven years but the implementation faces challenges, the government needs a game changer that can shift the focus from Java primacy to Indonesian archipelagic region. The capital relocation could have potentially offered such a transformative moment.

5 From Delta to Forest: De-littoralising a New ‘Dry’ Jakarta

Announced in 2019, the motivation to relocate the administrative functions of Jakarta City to Kalimantan Island stands to be read as a strategically oriented move favouring the archipelago. Indeed, it was proposed to name the new capital ‘Nusantara’. It is hoped that its relocation reduces the state’s dependency on Java, while at the same time attending to the metropolitan’s socio-ecological problems such as overcrowding, flooding and subsidence (Bappenas 2019). However, an enduring question is whether moving the capital can be regarded as part of the implementation of Indonesia’s maritime vision, since the selected location rests in a commercially grown forest area three hours from Balikpapan, the nearest coastal city. While we think that visions of metropolitan relocation might not seem new or novel in Indonesia’s historic political discourse, narratives that feature (hinterland) East Kalimantan as a central geostrategic location to archipelagic sea-lanes, and its close proximity to the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, offer a new vantage point in which to study changing futures of coastal urbanities, and questions of uneven development and urbanization (Batubara et al. 2018).

Yet, at the same time, contesting vernacular and at times traditionalist notions of ‘restoring’ archipelagic living within urbanized settings, otherwise believed to have been lost, continues to remain the mainstay of regional planning mantras. We therefore ask, what promises and perils have been discursively articulated by the ‘new’ relocated Jakarta City in its hinterland spaces? In particular, while ‘futuring’ a new cityscape, what kinds of urban natures are envisioned? Furthermore, does its new material, socio-cultural and political positioning from ‘delta-to-forest’ mean muting, recalibrating and/or enlivening other notions and enactments of Nusantara, as understood in Indonesia’s hegemonic political narrative(s)? In particular, which visions and narratives of a futuristic ‘dry’ city are privileged, and how do these different visions of the future intersect and at times contradict, in determining a new urban imaginary for Bornean Jakarta?

At the beginning of the most recent attempt to relocate the capital function, the Ministry of Development Planning (Bappenas) conducted location studies. At the first stage, Kalimantan Island was chosen because the island is not located in the ring of fire, although experiencing forest fires. According to the BNPB (2021), Kalimantan has a lower risk index. Still, as the mean temperature in the region is projected to increase by 1.2 °C by 2050, the potential risks are still uncertain. At the second stage, the study pointed to three potential areas: Central, South, and East Kalimantan provinces. Based on personal experiences in various public seminars, it is clear that government then aimed at selecting which of the provinces has an adequate space of around 200,000 ha, low environmental risks, clearer and cleaner land status, no social conflicts, is safe and secure, and is next to the nearest cities for ease of mobility. Yet, if we examine the selection criteria, the maritime vision was not explicitly included as major considering factor for the site selection of the new capital. The result then showed eastern Kalimantan, particularly in the area of Penajam Paser and Samboja districts. The area faces the international sea lane (ALKI II) and the Makassar Strait, but the capital land is not coastal but a forested area. Unfortunately, the new capital city does not represent a decentralized maritime connectivity to areas outside Java Island. Considering that the new capital city will adopt a forest city concept (Mutaqin et al. 2021), it may show that the maritime vision would also not be considered in the capital planning phase.

The proposed site can be reached through a three-hour trip overland from Balikpapan city, and lies on a commercially grown forest space, while being surrounded by tropical rain forests, some of which are conserved natural reserves such as Bukit Soeharto, and the protected Forest Wein River. Given these geo-spatial characteristics, the capital development will clearly face limitations to growth due to protected forest areas and high-value ecosystem barriers. In addition, the physical condition of the intended metropolitan land problematically remains hilly. Strategically, the state promotes the branded vision of a new Forest City, while its urban development still offers to be prudently cautionary, given its high cost of re-development. The same notion of Forest City is also developed by the private sectors in Johor Baru where a reclaimed area was used to develop forestry urban area with thousands of trees planted. The new Indonesian capital city is planned to take only 35% of forest area for the urban area (Bappenas 2020).

Drawing on the recent discourse around the capital relocation, the Forest City concept aims to develop an eco-city with modern facilities combined with minimal disaster risks. The capital must not be affected by flooding and forest-fire hazing. The location of the capital city amid the industrial forest is expected to eradicate the environmental risks faced by former Jakarta.. It is apparent that the government aims to develop a ‘dry’ capital to be more resilient and sustainable in the future. Yet, it leads to the absence of maritime conception in the capital relocation. Still, the waterscape in the design of the new city, particularly in relation to its built façade and landscaping of the envisioned presidential palace communicates an interpretation of ‘Tanah Air.’ It also connotes the abandoning of colonial symbols in building structures, features that are undetachable from the current palaces in Bogor and Jakarta (Fig. 15.4).

Fig. 15.4
A top down photograph of the forest city. The photo displays buildings, trees, roads, and pathways.

The “Forest City” Image Illustration of the new capital (Source: IKN.go.id, 2022)

The absence of maritime narratives in the discourse of capital land selection has no clear explanation in recent date. However, it is clear that this branding of a ‘forest city’ has minimized the primacy of the maritime narrative in the future administrative capital, ironically named Nusantara. The selection of Penajam Paser Utara and Kutai Kertanegara, that actually located in the sea-lane (ALKI-2), is a weak argument to convince the public that the capital movement is key for a shift in momentum from an agriculture to a maritime country, particularly as governmental centers are to be relocated in upland Penajam Paser Utara. The central government only supported the idea of moving the development epicentre, shifting away from a Java-centric to an Indonesia-centric paradigm since Penajam is still centrally located geographically. It is hoped that there will be a new impetus of local and international transportation to frequently visit the hinterland capital.

The second reason explaining the absence of maritime narratives owes much to the placement of the new capital within a land-locked region, with no coastline or seaport. It barely embodies the faintest identity of a maritime city, as previously anticipated in plans of capital relocation. Instead, the site selection and the Forest City concept illustrates a material and symbolic epistemic shift from that of a delta city to a hinterland forest city.

If maritime narratives were to be embodied in the vision and site selection of its capital, it may have produced a different result. As argued by UNEP (2019), the ‘ocean city’ may serve as a useful a concept to promote an integrated approach in planning and urban development that strengthens the linkage between nature and urbanity, climate resilience, and coastal ecosystems. It enlivens the coast and the sea as convivial living places, bringing together human habitation with natural systems.

Nevertheless, it is worth contemplating on maritime historian Adrian Lapian’s work (2006 in Utomo and Sholiha 2019) on the Tidung ethnic clan groups inhabiting East Kalimantan. Theirs was a terra-aqueous culture and lifeworld patterned by the riverine and the deltaic. Lapian’s argument extends to the contemporary, for it is more likely that new kinds of interconnectedness on the one hand, may lessen the division between hinterland forest and the sea, through means of transportation and digitised communication networks and technologies. On the other hand, the compounding of new socio-ecological risks also usher novel complexities that create new cycles of precarity and uncertainty that the newly rebuilt city ought to be preparing for.

In sum, placing the agenda of capital relocation within the broader matrix of Wawasan Nusantara, thereby accelerating momentum towards a concerted maritime vision would have seemed a rational decision for Indonesian planning. As Fig. 15.5 shows, this vision of Nusantara portends an imaginary of a united archipelagic region. The blue lines indicate the continental boundaries that delineate islands from inland seas, while the red marks territorial sea lanes and the dotted lines indicating Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Interestingly, the green-white line indicates the Nusantara Pendulum that connects west-central-eastern regions of the vast archipelago, pointing to the unique configuration of Nusantara as it is imaginatively mapped while missing a central feature of its construction – the capital city. Arguably then, there seems to be little ‘maritime spirit’ in the selection and the planning of the new city, while its main rationale appears to be discursively framed in terms of minimizing environmental risks and increasing land-based connectivity in Kalimantan.

Fig. 15.5
A geo location map with line of Indonesia depicts the 2 processes. Map legends for A, the labeled processes are new capital, major cities, seaport, international sea lane, sea toll, and shipping route. b. territorial boundary, the labels are continental boundary, territorial sea line, and Z E E.

The geostrategic location of Indonesia. The green line shows the Pendulum Nusantara, purple line shows the international sea lane, and the blue ones are the existing shipping routes. (Source: Authors, modified from various sources)

Besides the limited connection to marine-related development components, the selected site is also surrounded by Javanese transmigration villages.Footnote 12 Rural livelihoods in the area are rooted in agricultural and forestry production. Several fisheries villages are located in the delta along Balikpapan Bay, but are not economically nor culturally connected to the proposed site for city relocation. Although the new capital will be primarily occupied by urban dwellers from Jakarta, it is likely that the current conditions of the ‘new’ urban social economy in Kalimantan would remain far distanced from the rhythms, sensibilities and lifeworlds of previously existing maritime-based settlements, at least in its first evolutionary phase (Fig. 15.6).

Fig. 15.6
A map of Samarinda in the left inset and a full view illustration in the center displays the map legend, land cover, major street, street, coastal line, and more.

The location of new capital. Pink-lined polygon shows the boundary of capital district, the yellow-lined one shows the capital area. While the green cross-boxes show the plantation forest, the white dots area show the non-forest area, and the green yellow area show the mangrove. (Source: Authors, modified from Ministry of National Development Planning 2021 and Ministry of Environment and Forestry 2020)

Nevertheless, the moving of the Indonesian capital city to ‘dry’ Kalimantan could be seen as a setback from the idea of cementing the nation as a maritime fulcrum. On the other hand, the maritime fulcrum itself is an outlook beyond the Indonesian archipelago, particularly beyond Java, in the sense of a contemporary form of Nusantara in-the-making. To a certain extent, the placemaking of a new capital city in Kalimantan then is in fact supportive of such a notion, as it approaches a closer proximity to the ASEAN neighbours and also the strategic role of the South China Sea, compared to Jakarta or Java.

6 Quo vadis: Futuring Wawasan Nusantara

In which direction archipelagic thinking can evolve in future in Indonesia, at a time in which its planners strive to co-develop new futurities for Nusantara? Archipelagic identities have long patterned Indonesian historic imaginaries, collective memory, and its postcolonial modernist narratives on nation-building. This chapter serves as a speculative analysis of different imaginaries of Wawasan Nusantara. Notwithstanding, ‘Nusantara’ appears to be read as a historically complex vernacular concept. Yet we focus on its enduring resonance and purchase as a political doctrine and vision by asking how its discursive meanings speak to Indonesia’s recent ‘oceanic’ policy turn in envisioning the entire archipelago’s strategic emplacement as a global maritime fulcrum.

This analysis of three sectoral domains – industrial development, science policy, and urbanization – shows how Wawasan Nusantara continues to remain as an inward-looking doctrinal discourse, while being more conservatively instrumental than socio-economically strategic. At the very least, Nusantara – as a unifying archipelagic vision – attempts to hold sway as a consolidative dream of nationhood that runs counter to narratives of political disintegration and island autonomy. Yet, it barely extends and translates into policies that attempt to bridge the material and conceptual distance between hinterland and coastal dynamics, including its landlocked Java-centrism that has flecked much of Indonesia’s post-Independence politics.

Furthermore, Indonesia’s articulations of its maritime fulcrum, encased in an all-too-familiar vocabulary of blue growth and the blue economy remains limp, lacking in concerted policy action and equal measures of institutional will and capacity. The fragmented silos under which Indonesia’s ‘maritime’ sectors stand to be questioned. Although the relocation of its capital offers to be read as a missed opportunity in some regards, it may still integrate the grand vision of Wawasan Nustantara, especially by integrating small island clusters within its matrix of generating socio-economic and political value through untapped sea-borne connectivities. This calls for experimental practices for inclusively integrating existing maritime cultures and lifeworlds into existing policy plans and blueprints on fisheries, other marine industries, and the future of Indonesia’s blue economy entailing disparate aspects from coastal tourism to urban development.

In the context of urbanization, the missing conception of maritime vision in the capital relocation show that the meaning of Wawasan Nusantara only occurred at the macro level, but was not translated at its micro level, when for example, decision-making on site selection for the relocation of its capital relocation and a new urban vision. The formation of an archipelago state relies on the very existence of coastal cities alongside the sea that they can utilize marine resources. In the context of ocean governance, ocean policy plays an important role to enable coastal cities to become maritime cities. The Indonesian urban development strategy should be mainstreamed by the maritime economy and the future blue economy. In this case, Indonesia’s capital city relocation plan is part of an urban strategy that is supposed to be developed with a maritime spirit.

To empower Indonesian ocean governance, we suggest that first, ocean policies need to gradually change from insular connectivity (internal mobility) to more expansive transregionally-oriented connectivity (also serving international sea lanes). Second, the urban infrastructure also needs to support maritime sector development. Third, ocean economic orientation should shift, from initially depending solely on an extractive marine resource economy. Fourth, the institutional roles of Indonesian ministries and agencies in supporting Indonesian ocean economic policy should be more strategically integrated also in ways that synergize across scales with local city governments.