The presence of the firebrand cleric in Indonesia will make Canberra uncomfortable as he represents a cultural shift that could further alienate the two countries and complicate any initiatives towards gaining a better understanding of each other.
The bilateral relationship with Indonesia is at the foreground of US foreign policy as the presidential election unfolds. The outcome of the election could sway the US approach to Indonesia and the wider region.
While there was no single significant outcome from the meeting, it nonetheless highlights the growing importance of Indonesia to the United States and pragmatism from Indonesia’s Government in keeping Washington onside.
Implementing practical co-operative projects to assist in dealing with the pandemic could help South Korea realise its goal to be a strategic partner in Southeast Asia.
The issue of independence in West Papua will likely reignite as Indonesia renews its autonomy laws for the region. The prospects for West Papua’s independence movement are bleak; Indonesia simply has too much at stake in the region and does not face enough external pressure to hold an independence referendum. Further compounding matters, in the current geopolitical climate, concerns relating to China will also heighten sensitivities surrounding the potential vulnerability of an independent West Papua.
Indonesia, and to a lesser extent India, have jurisdiction over the major maritime choke points of the Malacca Strait, the Six-Degree Channel and the Sunda Strait, through all of which large volumes of maritime trade pass. Both have been made uneasy by China’s expansionist maritime activities and its ambivalence towards international law. As custodians of vital maritime choke points, India and Indonesia have a duty to ensure that the rules-based order is maintained in those waters.
Building the new capital has been delayed until Indonesia’s economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. That, however, could take several years, although the government will still likely push for construction to begin before the end of Jokowi’s term in office.
The discussions are part of an effort by the US to bring together a collective stance against China’s activities in the South China Sea. In the short-term future, however, it is unlikely that Washington will actually become the driving force behind such a coalition.
The timing of Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto’s visit to India highlights shared concerns about China. It is becoming more apparent that closer strategic co-operation is increasingly in the interests of both countries.
Indonesia in 2020 and Beyond: Bill Sullivan – Part Two: COVID-19, Economic Reform, Foreign Relations, 2024 Election
In its relationship with China, Indonesia faces very similar issues to Australia and is realising that having a close relationship with Beijing brings risks for Indonesian sovereignty and interests. Given their historical closeness, Indonesia may follow India’s lead and develop a closer relationship with the United States as a way of counterbalancing Chinese expansionism.