Relations between the two countries were elevated after the US provided much-needed relief to the tsunami-hit province of Aceh and unfroze military parts toIndonesia needed for the operational status of Indonesian’s military equipment for disaster relief.
This visit is much anticipated as her original plan for a January visit was aborted when she chose to stay home to monitor the Middle East situation after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke. Some had taken this as a slight or an indirect signal of the importance of Indonesia in US foreign policy.
Rice has her hands full on her upcoming visits to the Asia-Pacific. During the Jakarta leg, she is expected to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Rice had already praised Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in advance for his efforts to improve law enforcement, strengthen civilian supremacy, reform the Indonesian military and eradicate corruption. This is her first trip to Indonesia as Secretary of State.
An important lobby issue is Exxon-Mobil's four-year legal tussle with Indonesian national oil company Pertamina over operations in the country's largest untapped oil field in Cepu. Before leaving for Indonesia, the Secretary of State gave her usual summation of the countries that she is visiting. The emergence of democracy inIndonesia has "thoroughly transformed" U.S. relations with that country, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. Democracy in Indonesia has matured enough to be able to deal with the possibility of hardline groups emerging in the nation`s political life, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington DC. Democracy, she said, was providing the Indonesian people with ways to pursue their different interests through political means instead of through criminal activities.
She also praised Indonesia's efforts to reconcile with neighbors and its "stalwart" role in combating terror. "It's also a place that shows that people of many different faiths and many different ethnicities can live together in a democratic system." Diplomatically, Rice hoped that Indonesia could tell Hamas that following the roadmap was the strategic choice it should make. Other issues that Rice will be discussing include bird flu pandemic, human rights problems, attacks on human rights defenders, the slow pace of military reform and abuses by the police in the context of counter-terror operations.
Jakarta has its own set of agenda as well. Jakarta may ask for direct access to the Al-Qaeda-linked JI Southeast Asian terror mastermind Hambali during Rice’ visit.
Not to overstate the importance of Rice’s visit, Indonesia seemed to be careful not to convey the image that they would give special treatment to the visiting US top diplomat. The Indonesian Police Headquarters said there will be no special security arrangements in connection with the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice here on March 14. Rice will arrive in Jakarta on March 14 after visits to Chile and Peru, and later also go to Australia.
Jakarta to push Rice for access to Hambali (ST, Mar 11)
No special security arrangement for Rice visit (Antara, Mar 11)
Rice says U.S. ties with Indonesia 'transformed' by democracy (JP, Mar 11)
RI democracy mature enough to deal with hard-line groups, Rice says (Antara, March 11)