Fri, February 20, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > Hillary Clinton kicks off Asian tour

News Analysis: Clinton's visit to Indonesia aims at improving tie with Muslim world

2009-02-19 13:17:40 GMT2009-02-19 21:17:40 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

JAKARTA, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Hillary Clinton's visit to Indonesia as the new U.S. Secretary of State was aimed to improve the ties between the United States and the Muslim world.

Since Barrack Obama was inaugurated as the U.S. president, his administration has launched a new diplomatic strategy, which attaches more importance to the relations with Asia and the Muslim world.

Indonesia, not only the biggest economy in Southeast Asia but also the country with largest Muslim population in the world, was naturally chosen by Clinton to use the "smart power" to form a comprehensive partnership with.

At the joint press conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda in Jakarta on Wednesday, Clinton said that the United States was willing to reach out the entire world to develop a common future.

She said Indonesia as a predominantly Muslim country, can play a leading role in bridging the West and Muslim world, because it is the third largest democracy in the world that had clearly demonstrated that Islam, democracy and modernity not only could co-exist but also were tied together.

She said that Indonesia and the United States share not only common interests on the range of regional and global issues, covering environmental protection and climate change, trade and investment, democracy promotion, healthy, education, regional security and counter terrorism, but also common values.

That is why the Unites States provided a proposal to the Indonesian government to consider where both sides can engage in negotiations on broader issues, such as supporting Indonesia to restore economic growth and prosperity.

Clinton even ingratiated her country with Indonesia by mentioning Obama's four-year experience in Jakarta in 1960s. She said that the president learned how people with different culture backgrounds live together peacefully.

Analysts here said that Clinton was trying to show sincerity of the United States to Indonesia that Washington expects Jakarta to play in nurturing the close and good relations between the United States and the Muslim world.

"Now is the time for the United States to improve its image in the Muslim world after it was tarnished over the past eight years," said Abdilla Toha of the House of Representatives (DPR)'s Commission I, quoted by the Jakarta Post Thursday.

Local analyst Aleksius Jemadu said that under Obama's administration, bilateral relations between the Untied States and Indonesia will become a new barometer in the whole reconstruction of U.S. ties with the Muslim world, according to the Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Jemadu said that together with Indonesia, whose workable compatibility between Islam and democracy is a real diplomatic asset, the United States can do a lot of things to marginalize the voice of the radical side of Islam all over the world.

Thus, he predicted that Obama will choose Indonesia as the place for him to deliver an important speech for that purpose within this year.

However, the development may be not as rosy and smooth as expected. Most Indonesians, especially the Islamic constituents, will not applaud the new U.S. government too early, before it can fulfill all its promises especially with regard to the resolving of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said Jemadu.

The Jakarta Post also quoted the Indonesian analyst Jusuf Wanandi as saying that Indonesia is a decent democracy that appears to be the most stable one in Southeast Asia, and its economy has been stabilized, and the military has been placed back in the barracks, and regional conflicts, especially in Aceh, have been resolved peacefully.

So, Wanandi said that Washington could establish strategic relations with Indonesia to strengthen regional security in the East Asian region, promoting a peaceful maritime environment through cooperation on the important straits in the waters of the Indonesian archipelago, structuring a stable balance of power in the region, regaining credibility in the Muslim world, and developing a stronger framework to counter terrorism and extremism.

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