What if nuclear bomb had not been invented? What if the West had not win the Cold War, would the world be less benign or perhaps less malign? What if the Bandung Conference became a successful movement in gathering the Third World solidarity? What if there was a strong coalition of non-aligned governments in Asia and Africa? What if Southeast Asia had a different grouping that overcame Asia and bypassed the Pacific? What if the Berlin Wall never fell? What if the Berlin Wall had never been built? What if the leftist movement in Asia was able to gain bigger power? How close did we come to alternative worlds the Bandung Conference imagine?

Intimacy and Diplomacy

“Not everyone understand that I am no different than a child. Give me a piece of banana with a little sympathy from your deepest heart, and I’ll love you forever. But offer me a million dollar and slap my face in front of public—even if I have to give up my life, I’ll said, “Fuck you!” Indonesian people live with a thrill of feelings. We are the only nation in the world that uses a particular kind of cushion to hold when we’re sleeping. In every Indonesians’ bed, we have a long, ellipse-shaped cushion which we called “guling”. We hold this guling on our hands all night.

I can be the nicest person in the world if I could feel a stream of friendship and a deep sympathy, understanding and respect for all my problems. Although it is not said, I can feel it. And at the same time, although you didn’t say that you hate me, I can also feel it. I react with my instincts. With one gentle word, I can melt with you. I can be as hard as steels, but I can be soft, too. A British diplomat still didn’t understand, that the key to open Soekarno’s door is to shower him with affection.”

As the host for Asian African Conference in Bandung, 1955, Soekarno gave an inspiring opening speech titled “Let a New Asia and New Africa be born”. Read the speech here.

Jakarta, 15 June 1955

My Srihani,

Last April in Bandung was great! It’s fascinating to see how Bandung become a site for leaders like Nehru, Nkrumah, Nasser, Tito and even Zhou En Lai to gather in one place despite of our different backgrounds. We’re all agree though, it’s time to shock those neo-colonialist who have been too long in power! Sometimes love can unite people, like what happens with us--but hatred too, can create a strong affinity. It is a momentous undertaking, and we will make history with this conference. I will fly to Manila next week to meet with Alonto. I met him in Bandung, and he’s the first Muslim senator elected in Philippines. Can you imagine? A Muslim leader in the only Christian nation in Asia! It confirms a possible cooperation between nationalism, religion and Marxism! I will be remembered as he who stood up to the imperialists! It will be a new world order when we the NEFOs unite. Oh, I’m too excited now! And I can wait too, to meet you in Salatiga this December. I need to see your smile again, for it sustains me so. I miss your sayur lodeh too. Write me often—I will send as usual my replies to you through my private courier so you need not worry.

Your Srihana.

Jakarta, 24 August 1960

Kartini, my beauty,

Will you go with me to Beijing next month? I will see Mao, Zhou En Lai and Khrushchev there. I have shown one of Abdullah’s paintings of you to Mao when he visited Jakarta and he was very taken. Do you remember what I told to those uncivilized Americans? “You may have the atomic bomb, Sir, but we Indonesians, we have high culture!” You must come with me this time and we will make of it a trip to remember—Beijing will be cold and dirty but Mao will see to it that we are well taken care of. I need you by my side—it will be a challenging trip for me, Khrushchev and Mao do not see eye to eye, but we will prevail, with you by my side. It is our big mission to reconcile Mao and Khrushchev’s relation. It will be hard, but if it’s success, it would change the whole story, you know. With you, my lucky charm, we will form new affinities with these giants outside of formal state relations—my friendship with them anointed by your great beauty, my love.

Jakarta, 16 February 1963

My sweet Dewi,

We have been ceded part of East Berlin! You were right to suggest muscling down on the Lyndon administration at the decisive minute, and that Khrushchev would have been wary of crossing me, what with the power of the NEFO. Mao gave me a huge backup. We will share this area in East Berlin with Malaysia and Philippines. Finally, Maphilindo back in power! We’ve changed the history! Dewi, does your husband not deserve a reward from you for this triumph? There is no one else I would rather revel in this victory with than you—be ready for me in nothing but your silk kimono. Well, I am in the cabinet now. Pack for Berlin —we will receive the city next week. Khrushchev will invite us to dinner at the winter palace. You’ll see how the West has created a huge wall to divide the West from the East Berlin. They’re scared as hell with our new affinities! We’re stronger now, and we’ll show them how great Asian culture is! My thoughts, even in the hectic days, remain with you and only you. I love you longer than your hair is long.