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The rise of Indonesia

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Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country by population and is one of South-East Asia’s most dynamic economies. Located at the juncture between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it has the potential to become a leading regional power. However, its location is also a source of considerable challenges that Indonesia will have to manage attentively in the coming years.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country by population and is one of South-East Asia’s most dynamic economies. Located at the juncture between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it has the potential to become a leading regional power. However, its location is also a source of considerable challenges that Indonesia will have to manage attentively in the coming years.

Indonesia's Geography

The very name Indonesia is revealing: it comes from Greek and means “Indian Islands”. As a matter of fact, Indonesia is an archipelago located at the eastern edge of the Indian Ocean, and this is a key factor that has shaped its geopolitical thinking.

In terms of dimension and configuration, Indonesia is a vast but fragmented state. It counts over 18,000 islands; the most important of which are Sumatra, Java, the southern section of Borneo, Sulawesi and the western part of New Guinea. These islands, covered by a thick rainforest rich in wildlife, have a volcanic origin. This means that Indonesia is vulnerable to seismic events and tsunamis; something that has a negative impact on its human security environment. The country extends over almost 8 million square kilometres if we take into account its maritime space including the Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ. Combined with its archipelagic nature, this makes it difficult for the central state to exert its power over all the territory; also because fragmentation is reflected in demographic terms: the population exceeds 260 million citizens divided in more than 300 ethnic groups; and this has important implications on the country’s geopolitics.

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