Barack Obama has reportedly stunned Indonesian diplomats by announcing he'll visit the world's most populous Muslim nation soon as part of a wider Asian tour.
The US President briefly mentioned his travel plans in a speech to the UN General Assembly. Apparently, neither Indonesia's Vice President Boediono nor Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa were given a heads-up by the White House beforehand, even though both are in New York attending gatherings at the world body (including an Obama-ASEAN summit today).
A visit there will have special significance personally and politically. Obama spent part of his childhood in Jakarta (where a movie about his school days has been made) and the President is bound to highlight the success Indonesia has achieved building a democracy and strong economy while fighting off terrorism and extremism.
Obama has twice canceled earlier planned visits this year to Indonesia because of US domestic political complications over his healthcare reform bill and then the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
And, while President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been hoping that Obama would eventually come, The Jakarta Post newspaper said Indonesia's delegation at the UN was "surprised" how the latest timing was revealed.
... There is no right more fundamental than the ability to choose your leaders and determine your destiny. Now, make no mistake: The ultimate success of democracy in the world won’t come because the United States dictates it; it will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed.
There is no soil where this notion cannot take root, just as every democracy reflects the uniqueness of a nation. Later this fall, I will travel to Asia. And I will visit India, which peacefully threw off colonialism and established a thriving democracy of over a billion people.
I’ll continue to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, which binds together thousands of islands through the glue of representative government and civil society. I’ll join the G20 meeting on the Korean Peninsula, which provides the world’s clearest contrast between a society that is dynamic and open and free, and one that is imprisoned and closed. And I will conclude my trip in Japan, an ancient culture that found peace and extraordinary development through democracy.