What are the Strategic reasons for the new Indonesian capital NUSANTARA

Artist design of Garuda in Presidential Palace, Nusantara.
  • Know about origin of the word Nusantara (Indonesia’s new capital), importance of its Location, its Cost plus Analysis. Rejoice not at Indic connection, look at Geo-political implications of move.

The announcement of Indonesia’s new capital got traction because a design of the proposed Presidential Palace embodies a Garuda (vehicle of Lord Vishnu) i.e. also the national emblem of Indonesia. It appears that the Muslim majority nation was connecting with its Hindu past. In short, the declaration of Nusantara was seen in India through the lens of Hindu-Muslim not geopolitics.  

Before analysing impact of the proposed change know about origin of word Nusantara & Indic connection, dynamics and cost of shifting capital to Borneo.

Map of Indonesia and Malaysia

1. Indonesia is a chain of 17,000 plus islands.

2. Nusantara shall be made in the island of Borneo and occupy 256,000 hectares in East Kalimantan.

3. App cost of construction $ 32 billion (Rs 2, 40,000 crores). Add estimated $ 1 billion for shifting armed forces headquarters and supporting units from Jakarta.

4. Indonesia owns the majority of Borneo Island. Malaysia and Brunei hold parts of its northern region. Note that in 1964, there was conflict with Malaysia as Indonesia tried to gain control over North Borneo. Reference


5. Gajahmada, prime minister of the Majapahit Empire and its Hindu ruler Hayam Wuruk, took an oath that he would not take any spice (meaning abstain from all worldly pleasures) till he conquered all of Nusantara. Mada, in all probably meant he would stick to his vow until he conquered present day Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, southern Thailand, and Timor Leste to the south western Philippines which he did and unified the entire archipelago. Source It is believed that Gajahmada took the empire to the peak of its glory.

6. Gajahmada (Gajah means elephant) is a national hero who inspired Indonesia’s struggle for independence.


7. Luke Hunt wrote in The Diplomat, “Nusantaria was a name that denoted much of Southeast Asia when it was little more than isolated sea-faring ports and sultanates dictated by trade winds as opposed to nation-states and the sovereign borders that make-up Indonesia and the ASEAN of today.” Source

8. The new capital will be a low-carbon "super hub" that will support pharmaceutical, health and technology sectors. 

9. “East Kalimantan was mandated as it sits in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago and is one of the safest locations in terms of the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis that accompany the nation’s position in the Pacific Rim of Fire.” Source

10. To its north Borneo has the South China Sea and its east is the Celebs Sea.   

Seas around Borneo & S.E Asia. 

11. According to East Kalimantan governor Isran Noor, Indonesia is open to foreign investments, including from Beijing, to help it build infrastructure in the new capital city.” South China Post report of 2019

12. The capital includes Special Economic Zones of Maloy Batuta Trans Kalimantan.


13. The new capital would be closer to Malaysia and Brunei. “It will also be closer to the tri-border area (with Malaysia and the Philippines) that analysts have called a ‘key hub’ for transnational terrorist and criminal activities.” Source

14. “Eastern Kalimantan also sits at the heart of the Makassar Strait—a central feature of the second of Indonesia’s three strategic archipelagic sea lanes (ASL II), which includes the Lombok Strait. Some consider the Lombok and Makassar straits as an alternative to Malacca Strait as a direct route between the Indian and Pacific oceans.” Source The Strategist  

15. The new capital would bring the centre of Indonesia’s power closer to the Pacific Ocean where it would like to be more active. Reference

Garuda, Srirangam Temple, Trichy. 

The matters that need attention are 

The term Nusantara was in earlier times meant to include part of nations that are now part of South-east Asia. Does name for the new Indonesian capital imply that Indonesia, like China, is seeking to regain control of territories that its kings once controlled?


The fact that the term Nusantara was coined during rule of a Hindu king means nothing and should not be a source of joy for Bhakts! Indians should look at this development through the prism of China’s plans for the Pacific Ocean. What China does in this region might strengthen its plans for the Indian Ocean.


Who is going to fund the $ 32 billion cost of the new capital?

The state budget is said to fund 19.2% of the cost mainly in building infrastructure, 54.6% through public private partnerships and 26.2% by private sector for transport, communication and renewal energy (2020 report).


According to this May 2021 report in Asia-Nikkei.com, "Since the beginning I said the government has been rash with infrastructure development. And the peak of the rashness will be the capital city," Faisal Basri, political economist at the University of Indonesia, told a webinar last week, citing Indonesia's declining tax revenues and widening fiscal deficit. But David Sumual, chief economist at Indonesia's largest private lender, Bank Central Asia, thinks despite its rising debt-to-GDP ratio -- 29% pre-pandemic to a projected 41% this year -- Indonesia still has a relatively strong fiscal position compared with other countries. He also thinks major projects like the new capital city might be what Indonesia needs to stimulate the economy.”

From top Hansa & Garuda Naga Temple, Batam Island, Indonesia. 

Although China might not be the flavour of the month in Jakarta, what happens if the Indonesian government runs short of cash or the PPPs do not materialize? Will China do a Sri Lanka to Indonesia? Anyway, given China’s strengths it shall surely have a significant stake in the areas of private sector investment.

Would China use its capital, resources and labour to build the new capital? If that happens, it shall stimulate demand in China, contribute to its economic growth and have geopolitical implications too.

Further, the Special Economic Zones are likely to be populated by Chinese companies. Could Indonesia be a vehicle to help Chinese companies export products to North America, West Asia and Europe?

With China, trade and military affairs are intertwined? 

If Indonesia takes loans from China and fails to repay, will it handover land or SEZ’s in Borneo to China? Also read Why China may want a military base in Indonesia

OR China is given possession of some of Indonesia’s strategically placed islands (to build military bases) that shall secure its interests in the South China Sea and help counter U.S. influence in the region? For e.g. a base close to the U.S. base in Guam (in Western Pacific Ocean, east of Philippines) would upset the Americans. Reference Also read China targeting U.S. Military Installations in the Pacific


One does not know how things shall pan out.

One can look at the above as crystal ball glazing or a conspiracy. However, it is important for India to monitor these developments closely. Talk, not of Hindu revival in Muslim majority Indonesia. This is hard core geopolitics!


Also read

1. Explore Hindu Temples in Java

2. Pramabanan Shiv Mandir, Indonesia

3. Naga Temple, Batam Island

4. Mother Temple Bali

5. Samskriti, Sanskrit and Indonesia

6. Architecture of Prambanan Temple

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