Tellurian

Madame Secretary Clinton to build ties in Jakarta

In Asia Tour, foreign policy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State on February 18, 2009 at 6:42 am

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on the second leg of her four-nation Asian tour.

hillary-jakartaDuring her brief visit, Mrs Clinton is scheduled to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other senior officials.

They will discuss a range of issues including education and climate change.

But Mrs Clinton’s visit is also being carefully watched for signs of a new US policy towards the Muslim world.

This is in some ways the most intriguing part of her Asian tour.

The symbolism is powerful – her first visit to a Muslim majority country; a stable, democratic country, half a world away from the Middle East.

And in a sign of the breadth of expectations Mrs Clinton will face here, her welcoming party included both senior government officials, and students from US President Barack Obama’s old school.

‘Mutual respect’

Mr Obama spent some of his childhood in Jakarta and there is a lot of goodwill among Indonesians towards his new government.

He has already made it clear he wants a new kind of relationship with the Muslim world, based on “mutual interests and mutual respect”.

Mrs Clinton’s visit will be carefully watched for signs of that new engagement – and also for signs that Washington wants to develop closer ties with South East Asia.

Indonesian officials have privately said that is exactly what they are hoping for; that they would welcome closer co-operation with the new US administration.

Relations between the two governments grew markedly under former President George W Bush, with the normalisation of military ties and cooperation on counter-terrorism, following a spate of bomb attacks by Islamist groups here.

But they deteriorated among the population in general, as a result of US policies in the Middle East, and its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

That is still what defines most attitudes here.

Many people say they welcome the symbolism of Mrs Clinton’s visit, and are pleased with President Obama’s election, but that they do not expect too much real change.


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