Can SBY take Jakarta's bilateral ties to a new level?

Updated On: Feb 18, 2005

Jakarta- Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was given a red-carpet treatment during his state visits toMalaysiaandSingaporethis week.

InSingapore, he and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong signed an investment guarantee agreement aimed at ensuring that businessmen can invest with legal protection - and greater confidence - inIndonesia.They also reaffirmed theircommitment to conclude an extradition treaty, a pact Indonesia deems crucialin its fight against corruption and nabbing economic fugitives.

In Malaysia, Mr Yudhoyonoand Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi witnessed the signing of an MoU between Malaysian aircraft maintenance services company, Grouptech Sdn Bhd and Indonesia’s state-owned aircraft manufacturer, PT Dirgantara Indonesia, to jointly manufacture the CN235 utility aircraft. The two leaders also agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in trade, industry and investment.

Judging by newspaper reports of the visits, both Singapore and Malaysia are hopeful that their respective relations with Indonesia willenter a new and even better eraunder Mr Yudhoyono's leadership.

However, a commentary in The Jakarta Post noted that the Indonesian government had put emphasis on two "pragmatic issues" - extradition treaty withSingaporeand the problem of illegal workers inMalaysia- in a "bid to add significance to the visit".

The writer, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, said: "While these issues are of importance to Indonesia's national interests, its emphasis over the past week threatened to gravely jeopardize the overall standing of Jakarta's relationship withits neighbours. Indonesia's relationship with these two countries comprises a network of complicated themes. The issue of migrant workers and the extradition treaty is just one subordinate aspect of what is historically a strong relationship."

While the writer acknowledges that foreign policy is often a reflection of domestic policy, "sometimes it is important for leaders to defy their own domestic constituents to ameliorate unnecessary fiction."

"It is hoped thatIndonesia's chief diplomats will continue to preserve the bilateral relationship through a series of incremental steps that maintain a fine balance between realism and interests."

* Realism, idealism in diplomacy with Malaysia, S'pore (The Jakarta Post, Feb 16)

* A new era in Malaysia-Indonesia co-operation (Berita Harian Malaysia, Feb 16)

* Investment agreement to boost confidence (The Straits Times, Feb 16)

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