By: I Made Andi Arsana
We understand that geographically, Indonesia is predominantly ocean.
However, some might not know that when it obtained its independence, Indonesian waters were not as large as they are today.
Inherited from the Dutch, Indonesia was only entitled to 3 nautical miles of territorial sea measured from the coastline of each island. It was pursuant to the Territoriale Zee en Maritieme Kringen Ordonnantie 1939 or Ordinance of Territorial Sea and Maritime Environment 1939.
With the 1939 ordinance, Indonesia was not united in a single blanket of sovereignty. There were high seas (laut bebas) between Java and Borneo/Kalimantan, for example, where foreign vessels could not only pass but also explore and utilize resources such as fish and minerals.
The then Prime Minister Djoeanda Kartawidjaja viewed this situation as a disadvantage for Indonesia and accordingly declared new Indonesian maritime claims through the Djoeanda Declaration on December 13, 1957.
The declaration asserts that the entire archipelago was enclosed by a belt of “archipelagic baselines”, connecting the outermost points of Indonesia’s outer Islands so that all islands and waters within the belt are regarded as an integral part of Indonesia. By doing so, Indonesia was claiming the status of an “archipelagic state”.
After a long struggle, Indonesia’s proposal was accepted by the International community through the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982.
Indonesia was certainly not alone since other countries with similar geographical characteristics had similar wishes. With this convention, all waters between Indonesian islands became archipelagic waters regarded as part of the sovereign republic. Put simply, the recognition of Indonesia as an archipelagic state has significantly enlarged Indonesia’s maritime area.
This was indeed good but not the end of the story. Now Indonesia possesses all waters between islands enclosed by its archipelagic baselines but it does not mean that Indonesia can prevent other countries from passing through its archipelagic waters.
In fact, The 1982 UNCLOS states that “all ships and aircraft enjoy the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage” in “sea lanes and air routes” that may be defined by said archipelagic country. In this case, foreign vessels can still navigate through Indonesia’s archipelagic waters as long as the navigation is in accordance with relevant provisions governed by UNCLOS.
It is worth noting that the designation of archipelagic sea lanes or air routes is not an obligation for archipelagic states like Indonesia. However, UNCLOS also states that “if an archipelagic state does not designate sea lanes or air routes, the right of archipelagic sea lane passage may be exercised through the routes normally used for international navigation.”
In other words, not designating specific routes within archipelagic waters does not completely prevent foreign vessels (or aircraft) from navigating through (or above) the archipelagic waters. Foreign vessels and aircraft still can pass through the “routes normally used for international navigation”, the definition of which may be open-ended.
In keeping with the above provisions, Indonesia has designated archipelagic sea lanes or Alur Laut Kepulauan Indonesia (ALKI) through which foreign vessels or aircraft can pass. In defining ALKIs, Indonesia has to define the axis line represented by list of coordinates.
Indonesia has designated three axes of ALKI that have been approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), being a “competent international organization” for this purpose.
It is intriguing to observe that Indonesia has only designated north-south ALKIs, while some other countries, especially maritime users, view that east-west ALKIs are also required.
In line with this view, Indonesia confirmed that the definition of the three ALKIs is a partial designation, which means that more ALKIs are likely to follow. It is understood that concerned countries are likely to expect that Indonesia will designate east-west ALKIs.
However, it appears that Indonesia has yet to make a decision in relation to the designation of more ALKIs, especially the east-west ones.
To my understanding, there are concerns among many Indonesian officials, especially in the Navy, that designating east-west ALKIs is like opening more gates so foreign vessels can navigate through Indonesia’s territory.
This, in their view, brings security related consequences, which is understandable. Designating ALKIs has to be coupled with an ability to ensure security for Indonesia and safety for the users. Without unlimited resources, it is understandable why some parties hesitate to designate more ALKIs, especially the east-west ones.
However, it is worth recalling that not designating ALKIs will not prevent foreign vessels from navigating through the Indonesian archipelagic waters. Thus, should the coming of foreign vessels to Indonesia be viewed as a source of concern, refusal of the ALKI designation is certainly not a solution.
As an analogy, our archipelagic waters are not a jungle so when we do not designate ALKIs others will not be able to go through. In fact, our waters are like a soccer field where failure to designate specific routes will only enable others to cross along whatever route they choose.
Surely, that is not a good prospect for security. It is true that the designation of more ALKIs, especially the east-west ones, means greater responsibility for Indonesia.
However, the large maritime area that Indonesia managed to secure also means great resources and power. We know that with great power comes great responsibility.
Fifty-six years after Djoeanda made history, let us see how Indonesia ensures the protection of its sovereignty and sovereign rights as well as maintains respect to its neighbors by complying with international norms and standards.
Footnote: This opinion article has been displayed in an online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on December 19, 2013. The original and full article are also available at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/12/19/djoeanda-declaration-protecting-sovereignty-respecting-neighbors.html [accessed in Vijaya Kusuma, Cipadung, Bandung: 20 December 2013].
The author is a Lecturer at the Department of Geodetic and Geomatic Engineering UGM (Gadjah Mada University) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The views expressed in this article are his own.