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A 'Guiding Light' for US-Indonesian Relations

Indonesian Ambassador Dr. Dino Patti Djalal in Washington on Nov. 15, 2010. (Asia Society Washington Center)

Indonesian Ambassador Dr. Dino Patti Djalal in Washington on Nov. 15, 2010. (Asia Society Washington Center)

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2010 – President Obama's recent trip to Indonesia has laid the groundwork for stronger relations in trade, climate change, security, and energy, according to Indonesian Ambassador Dr. Dino Patti Djalal.

Speaking to corporate members at an off-the-record luncheon hosted by Asia Society Washington, Djalal said he was pleased with the outcome of US President Barack Obama's historic trip to Indonesia, in particular he was pleased to note the signing of the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership Agreement.

Djalal said that between their joint press conference and state dinner, Indonesian President Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Obama also spent an hour discussing a range of issues including Afghanistan, the Palestinian conflict, regional architecture, the role of China, ASEAN, and APEC.

Djalal also praised Obama for framing his address to University of Indonesia students to focus on Indonesia's perspective. Calling the speech "hypnotizing," Djalal said he appreciated Obama's affirmation of the Indonesian government's efforts in promoting diversity, tolerance, and democracy.

Expressing confidence in the Obama administration's renewed attention to Southeast Asia, Djalal said the commitment by both leaders to developing a "21st-century partnership" was a step in the right direction. Characterizing that partnership as one surrounded by strategic equals bound by common interests and motivated by multiple issues, the ambassador reiterated that this collaboration should not be viewed as merely between Yudhoyono and Obama as individuals, but between Indonesia and the US.

According to the ambassador, the real work in facilitating renewed relations between Indonesia and America must now take advantage of positive bilateral sentiments that he characterized as upbeat, less cynical, and more optimistic. In the coming months, ministers from both countries are expected to convene in working groups to discuss governance, energy, and education.

When asked to comment on future US-Indonesia relations, Djalal said he was optimistic that whoever is in power in the future will follow in Yudhoyono and Obama's footsteps and use their partnership as a "guiding light." Likening the bilateral relations to competing in a marathon, Djalal said Indonesia-US relations were at present "like walking," when both countries can and should be "running."

Reported by Melanie Yip