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Indonesia's Active Nuclear and other Non-traditional Diplomacy

Updated On: Feb 17, 2006

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration seems to be taking a non-traditional route to diplomacy.

While maintaining good relationship with powers like the US and China as well as buying Russian-made weapons, the country seems to be also playing an active role in the nuclear issues that is preoccupying the US Bush administration. Instead of toeing the US line in ignoring or ostracizing states which have been dubbed as the axis of evil by the Bush administration or states, recent months see Indonesia “actively” trying to play some sort of “constructive engagement” of these “rogue or pariah” states.

For example, the recent decision by the Indonesian government to abstain during a vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting recently was seen as a reversal of Indonesia's willingness to be part of the US network of friendship. This was a significant decision because even Indiawas warned upfront by the US in rather plain language to not obstruct the vote on Iran.

Indonesia's seeming determination to “side” Iranon the nuclear issue was further reflected in the visit by House Speaker Agung Laksono, and six other Indonesian legislators. They visited Iranand was offered a tour of the Iranian nuclear powered electricity facilities in Iran's Isfahanprovince. During the visit, the MPs evaluated that Iranian nuclear development as alternative energy was for peaceful purposes and the interests of its people`s welfare. They also met with Iranian political leaders, including the Iranian President, Tehran academicians and other Iranian prominent individuals and were updated on the process of converting nuclear energy to electricity.

According to Antara Indonesia's news agency, the UN resolution on Irancontained two points: first, the measures Iran should take to erase suspicion on its nuclear development for weapons, and second, bringing the report of the issue to the UN Security Council. Indonesia agreed on the first point but disagreed on the second one. Wirajuda added that Indonesia preferred to wait till the middle of next March for the agency to conduct its regular conference before putting the issue to a vote.

Aside from IranIndonesia has also reached out to Syria with bilateral ties at a good upturn. Last year, according to the Syrian embassy in Indonesia, bilateral trade increased to US$7O million from $40 million in 2004. Syria wants this figure to increase further. At the moment, bilateral trade is in Indonesia's favor. According to Antara's report, the Syrian ambassador to Indonesia said: "We are now planning to organize a Joint Commission Meeting between Syria and Indonesia, to discuss various issues, not only on economic but also cultural, educational and political cooperation." Syria has provided a number of fellowships/scholarships to Indonesian students for studying in Syria.

Just as sensitive as Syriaor Iran, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is planning to visit Pyongyang.. Indonesiahas historical relations with North Korea since Sukarno. Kim Jong-il visited Jakarta in 1965 when he accompanied his father Kim Il-Sung. As a start, Indonesia's envoy Nana Sutresna visited Pyongyangto be the middleman for linking up the North and South Korea's defense chiefs. This is a significant contribution as Seoul requested Jakartato host the talks which will allow the two Koreas to resume military cooperation. - a breakthrough for the two countries technically at war.

Sources:

*MPs Regret Indonesia's Abstain on Iranian Nuclear Issue (Antara, Feb 15)

Syria's economic ties with RI growing: Envoy (JP, Feb 15)

Syria Wishes to Expand Relations with Indonesia(Anatara, Feb 14)

* Yudhoyono to visit N. Korea: spokesman (JP, Feb 15)