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Indonesian presidential candidates debate foreign policy, national defence issues

The two Indonesian presidential candidates faced off on another debate on Sunday night, covering issues on international affairs and national security.

JAKARTA: The two Indonesian presidential candidates faced off on another debate on Sunday night, covering issues on international affairs and national security.

Mr Prabowo Subianto came in with the upper hand in the debate with his international military training and education pedigree, but it was Mr Joko Widodo who gave an impressive performance with his more practical approach.

In their third nationally televised debate, both candidates spoke on how they would improve welfare.

Mr Subianto stressed that Indonesia's international influence is based on domestic prowess and that the country's assets were falling into the hands of foreign owners.

"Our foreign affairs policy won't matter much if we do not have domestic prowess. That is why I often speak of how Indonesia can obtain national resilience and secure its natural resources," he said.

Mr Widodo, also popularly known as Jokowi, reached out to voters by offering to improve the welfare of military personnel.

He also talked about increasing productivity and competitiveness of locally-made products in order to compete against imported products.

He also outlined four major points in his foreign policy, including support for Palestine's independence and full UN membership, better protection for migrant workers, modernising military weaponry, as well as safeguarding national and maritime security.

Both candidates took a harder stance on border disputes, proposing dialogues in solving territorial disputes.

At the same time, they were willing to take firm action if any foreign country were to infringe on Indonesian territory.

On the South China Sea issue, Jokowi said Indonesia can help find a resolution but must be wary that it won't negatively impact bilateral ties with countries in the disputes, including China.

"If we are sure we can help find a solution through diplomacy then we should assist them, but if we are unsure that we can solve the problem it's best we do not get involved in a conflict that is unclear in its direction," he said.

Regarding Indonesia's relations with Australia, both candidates agreed that there was indeed distrust between the two countries and that Indonesia should not let Australia belittle Indonesia.

Mr Subianto said: "We are not a threat to Australia. We have to convince and prove to them that we have good intentions. But of course we also need to be firm in protecting our core national interests."

On bilateral ties with Australia, Jokowi said he wanted to increase diplomacy between both government and business sectors, as well as expand cultural and educational exchange programmes.

Although most media analysis of the three debates indicates that Jokowi is still in the lead, recent smear campaigns against him have had a negative impact towards his previously unblemished image.

As a result, opinion polls now indicate that Mr Subianto has narrowed the gap between them to just 6.3 per cent, half of what it was a month ago. 

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