Small steps for Australia-Indonesia relations

Security was tight. With the dozens of beret-clad and armed POLRI, squads of the special reaction unit (Gegana) dressed in black, military police, army, and rooftop snipers, journalists and onlookers were more concerned about getting on their wrong side that morning than of any terrorist attack.

However, once the Australian Prime Minister arrived to pay her respects to the victims of the 2002 Bali Bombing, all eyes were on her. In Bali for the ASEAN and related summits, the PM’s visit to Ground Zero was a small yet symbolically important part of her tightly-packed schedule.

Australia-Indonesia diplomatic relations have had a number troughs over the past twelve months. A few days ago, Indonesia’s foreign minister and military chief voiced their respective concerns about the newly-announced initiative to place US Marines in Darwin from 2012 (with the FM noting he’d only been told informally a few days prior to the announcement). Add to that a Prime Minister who has publicly stated that foreign affairs is not her forte, failed to coordinate with her Foreign Minister on policy changes, and announced asylum seeker initiatives without alerting the countries in question.

Continue reading