US-RI relation: History, progress and prospect

US-RI relation: History, progress and prospect
The Jakarta Post, 22 September 2010

By: Marty M. Natalegawa, Washington, DC


Nations today must face the fact that we live in a globalized and networked world. And that this world is in the grip of formidable challenges.

The United States and Indonesia have been addressing the need for change. It stands to reason that both will get better results — and contribute more to the welfare of humankind if we work together.

Today, the United States and Indonesia — respectively the second and the third largest democracies in the world — which means that we are both totally committed to the same values and ideals, including those enshrined in the UN Charter. Thus, the prospect for our bilateral relations are the best they have ever been.

It was in recognition of this fact that in November 2008 President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proposed the idea of forging a Comprehensive Partnership between our two countries.

The United States quickly and favorably responded to the idea. When State Secretary Hillary Clinton visited Indonesia in February 2009, she proclaimed support for such a comprehensive partnership — covering a wide range of fields that are crucial to Indonesia’s development, including education, health, science and technology, food and energy security, national security, trade and investment and sustainability of the environment.

If I had stood before you like this some 12 years ago, I should not be talking of a Comprehensive Partnership with the United States. At that time, Indonesia had a gaping democracy deficit. In the midst of the Asian financial crisis, we suffered a negative GDP growth of 13.5 percent — and social turmoil.

But today we have a new Indonesia. We have launched and sustained an era of reformasi. Having made our democratic transition, we are conscious of the significance of being recognized as the world’s third largest democracy — with democracy, Islam and modernization can flourish together.

Our democracy is delivering socioeconomic dividends to our people. Thus when the global financial crisis struck in 2008, sending the world economy on a tailspin, the Indonesian economy grew by 6.0 percent that same year and by 4.5 percent in 2009. It is expected to grow by 5.5 percent this year and by 6.4 percent next year — the third highest growth rate among G20 countries after China and India.

Our non-oil exports were valued at US$100 billion last year. Our foreign exchange reserves have reached an unprecedented high of $78 billion, while our debt to GDP ratio went down to an unprecedented low of 27.8 percent. Our poverty rate continues to decline, our credit rating keeps rising. Agriculture being the backbone of our economy, our food security continues to strengthen.

Because our people are enjoying these dividends, our democracy is robust and durable. Our national unity is strengthened. As a nation we are more socially cohesive than ever before.

We have transparency in government. The democratic checks and balances of power are always at work. Our justice system has scored many notable victories against the vice of corruption. But we are not complacent. We have to continue to invest in and nurture our democratic institutions.

Not least, we are striving to ensure that there is no disconnect between our democratization and the regional milieu. It is certainly not a coincidence that Indonesia’s democratic transformation over the past decade has been paralleled by change within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Thus in the same way that we have a democratic Indonesia, we have an ASEAN that is transforming itself by its commitment to democratic values.

As Indonesia consolidates within, and contributes to ASEAN community-building, it is also promoting its world view on the so-called regional architecture building.

A geopolitical shift to the Asia-Pacific region has been quite pronounced and likely to continue.

Indonesia believes that the Asia-Pacific region need not slip into a Cold War-type environment of mutual suspicion and hostility. In this, ASEAN’s role will continue to be invaluable.

Today, ASEAN continues to strive to earn such central role by tackling head on the issue of regional architecture building. The forthcoming expansion of the East Asia Summit by including the United States and the Russian Federation is one such response.

Indonesia looks forward to working closely with the United States within the framework of the envisaged Comprehensive Partnership to help bring about such a regional architecture. Beyond the Asia-Pacific region, we look forward to collaborating with the United States in the reform of the United Nations that reflects the realities of the contemporary world.

Within the framework of G20 we will strive alongside the United States to reform the international financial architecture and give the developing world a bigger say in global economic-decision making.

We can pursue a common advocacy for nuclear disarmament that will eventually lead to a world of zero nuclear weapons. And a common advocacy to save our tropical forests, our oceans and coral reefs — to mitigate and control the ravages of global warming.

We invite the United States to support our efforts at promoting democratic values through such endeavors as the Bali Democracy Forum. We are ready to work with the United States in fostering peace and mutual understanding wherever there is conflict or tension.

And we invite the United States to join our ongoing efforts to promote interfaith and dialogue among civilizations — as a way of building a bridge of mutual understanding and cooperation between the Western and Muslim world.

There is so much that we can do with this Comprehensive Partnership. The success of that comprehensive partnership will tell a great deal not just about the United States and Indonesia, not just about the West and about Islam but also about democracy and how it can be made fruitful for all humankind.

The article is an excerpt of keynote speech by Foreign Minister Marty M. Natalegawa at the Banyan Tree Leadership Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC on Sept. 17, 2010.