US sees RI as important ally in evolving new foreign policy

Lilian Budianto , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Thu, 04/30/2009 3:20 PM | World

US President Barack Obama’s 100-day-old administration has “re-energized US foreign policy with a fresh diplomatic approach” in a movement that “re-established the leadership” of the super power amid global tensions, a spokesman for the Indonesian president said.

Spokesman Dino Patti Djalal said on Wednesday Indonesia holds the new US administration in high regard, but added it might be too soon to define political achievements made under the pledge of “soft diplomacy” toward Arab nations.

“It takes a lot more time *than 100 days* to deliver and achieve. It’s not fair to judge what Obama has achieved in such a short time,” Dino said in a discussion held to mark the first 100 days of the Obama presidency at Pelita Harapan University in Tangerang.

Obama was sworn in as the first black president of the United States on Jan 20, inheriting two wars and a major economic crisis from George W. Bush administration.

Dino said although it supports many US foreign imperatives, Indonesia has remained cautious toward many issues and has been at odds with Washington in certain circumstances.

Indonesia condemned the Iraq war, launched by the US in 2003 over accusations that Baghdad had developed weapons of mass destruction.

Jakarta has also remained sceptical of the West’s claims that both Iran and North Korea have secretly developed nuclear weapons, saying Jakarta’s position over possible sanctions would be based on the reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the revival of six party talks.

“From the start, we need to have a clear and good idea of US foreign policy in a way that will serve Indonesian interests the best,” Dino said.

Bilateral relations between Indonesia and the United States have focused much on the cooperation to fight terrorism and enhance democracy, especially after the World Trade Center attacks in 2001.

A military embargo by the US administration, issued over concerns of human rights abuses in Timor Leste and Papua, was waived in 2005 when president George W. Bush took office, with his administration citing improvement in human rights.

US Ambassador to Indonesia Cameron Hume said the United States could not solve the global economic and security issues alone and would need partnership from democracies around the world.

“Indonesia is a stable democracy that is in the middle of an election season remarkably free of serious problems. America and Indonesia share a future,” he told the seminar.

He said Indonesia, as a fellow member of the G 20, has a critical role to play in addressing this crisis. Indonesia is also a key partner in the Muslim world “to promote democracy, tolerance and peace throughout Southeast Asia and beyond.”

Jakarta and Washington have agreed to develop a comprehensive partnership that will include a grant for poverty reduction programs and cooperation on education, maritime security and peacekeeping missions.

Azyumardi Azra, professor of history at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, said the United States would continue to define its policy towards Indonesia with an emphasis on the war against terrorism, as Washington would need Indonesia as a partner in approaching the Arab world.

“Indonesia will see itself involved more with the US in solving Middle East conflicts in the future, in addition to its own efforts to help addressing it.”

“Indonesia is the world’s biggest Muslim majority country and the third largest democracy. Obama wants Indonesia to play the intermediary role because of our special stature in the international stage,” said Azyumardi.

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