A principal Japanese goal in World War II was to secure resource-rich Indonesia and especially its oil. Japan's 1942 invasion of Indonesia dealt a blow to white colonial rule there and, in fact, fired the aspirations of nationalists who would eventually fight against the return of Dutch control during 1945–1949. The Japanese surrender in August 1945 prompted Indonesia to proclaim its independence on 17 August 1945. At that point Indonesia's process of constitutional government began, corresponding with three provisional constitutions prepared in 1945, 1949, and 1950. The Pancasila-based 1945 provisional constitution, reflecting President Sukarno's (1945–1967) political philosophy, was promulgated the day after independence and provided for a strong presidency. However, a shift in the direction of parliamentary government began to occur. Pragmatic considerations, such as the need to cultivate the support of antifascist leaders, prevented Sukarno, who was accused of collaboration with the Japanese, from exercising his full constitutional powers. Initially, however, members of parliament were appointed by the president and were not popularly elected, and thus a full-fledged parliamentary system was not yet in place.
After the war, the Dutch immediately sought to restore colonial rule with the help of the British. The Battle of Surabaya, between British troops and Indonesian nationalists, took place on 10 November 1945. The Dutch launched their first police action in July 1947, which ended with the signing of the Renville Agreement on 17 January 1948 under United Nations (UN) auspices. This agreement established a military truce between the Dutch and the republican government, thus strengthening the Dutch position. On 17 December 1948, a second Dutch police action ensued in utter disregard of the Renville Agreement. Senior republican leaders such as Sukarno and Mohammed Hatta were arrested.
At the same time, nationalist leaders were also confronted by threats from within. The first of these was the 1948 Madiun rebellion in East Java, during which the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) proclaimed a People's Republic, which had to be reversed by force. The Darul Islam movement, a militant movement based in Java that sought the establishment of an Islamic state in southern Celebes (Sulawesi), Java, and Sumatra, was another internal threat that distracted the nationalist/republican forces as they fought the Dutch.
International opinion rendered valuable support to the nationalist cause in Indonesia. An international conference on the Indonesian problem held in New Delhi in January 1949 demanded an end to Dutch colonial rule by 1 January 1950. The UN Security Council, via its 28 January 1949 resolution, had already demanded a cease-fire. The Dutch formally transferred sovereignty on 27 December 1949.
The first two decades of Indonesian independence saw economic stagnation, despite initial optimism over a democratic constitution and a brief climb in exports during the Korean War. Sukarno followed a policy of economic nationalism tinged with socialist Marxism and anti-imperialism.
Before departing, the Dutch imposed a federal structure on the republic when they promulgated the second provisional constitution on 2 November 1949. This structure was short-lived, however, as Indonesia reverted to a unitary system under a third provisional constitution enacted on 17 August 1950. Indonesia held its first general elections on 29 September 1955 and assembled its first-ever cabinet on an elected basis. Because no single party secured a majority, a coalition of the Nationalist Party (PNI), Masjumi, Nahdatul Ulama, and other smaller parties was formed. The last parliamentary cabinet fell in December 1956 because the coalition splintered, Vice President Hatta resigned, and rebellion loomed on the outer islands. Sukarno promptly denounced the party system and proclaimed martial law in 1957. In July 1959, he dissolved the Constituent Assembly when it failed to approve his proposal to revive the 1945 constitution. He reinstated this constitution that provided for a strong presidency and introduced his so-called guided democracy policy, which gave to him virtually unlimited power.
On the foreign policy front, Indonesia became part of the Colombo Plan (1950), and Sukarno organized the Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung (Java) in April 1955. Sukarno's antipathy toward colonialism was expressed in the 1960s through his idea of Nekolim (neocolonialism, colonialism, and imperialism). He also developed the concept of Oldefos (old established forces) versus Nefos (new emerging forces), defining the Oldefos-Nefos antithesis not in Cold War terms but rather in terms of the continued domination of the emergent nations by the former colonial powers.
Sukarno's reliance on the PKI at the domestic level was reflected at the international level when he moved from Cold War neutrality to the formation of a Peking-Jakarta axis by 1965. Indonesia stayed out of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA), although it initially endorsed the idea of Maphilindo, a regional grouping of Malaya, the Philippines, and Indonesia formed to reconcile differences over the proposed formation of the Federation of Malaysia. Sukarno's conception of konfrontasi (confrontation) was devised to repudiate the Netherlands' claim over Irian Jaya and was later used by Foreign Minister Subandrio to challenge the legitimacy of the new Federation of Malaysia, provoking Indonesia's withdrawal from the UN in 1964.
On 6 March 1960, Sukarno dissolved the elected parliament provided for under the 1945 constitution and replaced it in June 1960 with one that had appointed members. The Indonesian Army came to play an important role in internal affairs, being co-opted for an administrative role. Sukarno sought to balance the army's support with dependence on the PKI for mass support. But the contradictions between the two organizations became obvious during the abortive coup of 30 September 1965.
The attempted coup, involving leftist junior army officers, resulted in the murder of six right-wing generals. In the anti-communist pogrom that followed, an estimated 500,000 communists and communist sympathizers were killed. Suharto, tasked with suppressing the revolt, quietly utilized the opportunity to push Sukarno aside. Suharto did this first by usurping executive control in March 1966 and then by deposing Sukarno and installing himself as acting president in March 1967. Suharto installed himself as president in March 1968 for a five-year term. He stayed in power until 1998, getting himself reelected by fraud and rigged elections.
Under Suharto's New Order policy, political activity was severely restricted. Political parties were forced to reorganize into three major political parties: the Golongan Karya (Golkar), Partai Demokrasi Indonesia (PDI), and Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP). The government-sponsored Golkar effectively manipulated votes in its favor for more than two decades, while parliament was weakened and the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) became a virtual rubber stamp for Suharto. Suharto derived his strength from the military, which in turn derived its power from the doctrine of dwifungsi (dual function) that extended the military's influence over the socioeconomic and political spheres. In 1987, political parties were forced to accept the state ideology, Pancasilla, as their sole guiding principle.
Suharto imposed strict controls on the media and banned the publication of news magazines that did not toe the line. This authoritarianism asserted itself most aggressively in 1975, when Indonesian troops landed in East Timor and later incorporated it as the twenty-seventh province of Indonesia. Suharto faced serious allegations of human rights abuses in putting down the independence movement in East Timor and in suppressing a separatist movement in the northern Sumatran province of Aceh.
Suharto's foreign policy was calculated to be low profile and pragmatic. He abandoned confrontation with Malaysia, helped found the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967, and in 1976 established ASEAN's permanent secretariat in Jakarta. Indonesia became a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1991 just as the Cold War came to an end. Following Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia, Indonesia agreed to play the role of mediator in the crisis. Diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) were restored in August 1990 after having been severed in 1965 because of Chinese support for the PKI.
Indonesia's military, which played a central role in Indonesia's freedom struggle, steadily gained influence during the Cold War. It has continued to grow in prominence. This enhanced status is clearly visible in Indonesia's relatively steep defense expenditures (estimated at $6.6 billion in 2002) and its substantial arms acquisitions (including fighter aircraft and submarines). The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNY), known as ABRI during the Suharto era, enjoy a sacrosanct status inherent in the dual-role policy.
Suharto was dubbed the "father of development" as Indonesia's yearly economic growth rate skyrocketed to 7.8 percent in 1996. With the help of U.S.-trained economists, Suharto made Indonesia a welcome destination for foreign capital, and the World Bank held it up as a model borrowing nation. During the 1980s and 1990s, the number of Indonesians living below the poverty line declined substantially. With the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Indonesia could no longer isolate itself from the forces of political change, which were sweeping away outmoded political and social thinking elsewhere. Soon, new demands for political reforms began to gain momentum. Bachruddin Jusuf Habibie, buoyed by popular support, succeeded Suharto, forced from office in March 1998. Once this initial enthusiasm had subsided, however, Habibie no longer felt pressured to introduce market reforms or initiate measures to stop government corruption. His immediate successors did not live up to popular expectations.
Udai Bhanu Singh
Cribb, Robert, and Colin Brown. Modern Indonesia: A History since 1945. London: Longman, 1995.; Kingsbury, Damien. Power Politics and the Indonesian Military. London: Routledge, 2003.; Vatikiotis, Michael R. J. Indonesian Politics under Suharto. London: Routledge, 1993.