Crisis-prone And Volatile: The Downturn In Relations Provoked By The Executions Of Bali Nine

4286 words - 18 pages

CHAPTER ONE

Crisis-prone and volatile The downturn in relations provoked by the executions of Bali Nine 'co-ringleaders' Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran was arguably the third to occur in the Australia-Indonesia relationship since Tony Abbott became prime minister in 2. 013. It had been less than a year since the formal end of the previous crisis between Australia and Indonesia, sparked by Edward Snowden's revelations of alleged Australian phone tapping and Abbott's refusal to apologize publicly. 1 The Indonesian ambassador, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, whom President Yudhoyono had recalled late in 2. 0I. J did not return to his Canberra post until June 2. 014. Nadjib spent so long in Jakarta that his friends began quipping that he would have to see out his posting there.

2 Yudhoyono had also suspended military six and intelligence cooperation, the latter including cooperation against people-smuggling. At Yudhoyono's invitation, Abbott stopped over in Batam, an Indonesian island near Singapore, for a reconciliation meeting on his way to France. Compulsively effusive, Abbott called his host in Batam a ' 'good friend' of Australia, a 'senior statesman of Southeast Asia', and a 'great president.'

3 It was as if Australia expected its good friends and Southeast Asia's senior statesmen and great presidents to recall their ambassadors from Canberra from time to time. Before winning power, Abbott had promised a foreign policy that would be 'more Jakarta, less Geneva'. Though this slogan's precise implications were unclear, it was obviously launched as a rebuke of the Labor government's alleged neglect of the region and its purported immersion in less pressing multilateral issues. This was a fresh instance of what is now the unfortunately common practice for Australian leaders to claim that it is their party that has got Asia, particularly Indonesia, right, and that their opponents cannot be relied on to handle relations with Asia or Indonesia effectively or profitably. The history of the often-troubled Australia-Indonesia relationship suggests that there is in fact, little basis for such partisan claims.

In this instance, whatever its ambitions, the Abbott Government showed conclusively within eighteen months that 'more Jak arta, less Geneva' did not guarantee a more harmonious relationship with Indonesia. Clashes of national interests between Australia and Indonesia sparking diplomatic tensions have occurred intermittently over the last seven decades, irrespective of which party has been in power in Canberra. Neither a Coalition nor a Labor government can be relied upon invariably to manage such disputes well. Some of these clashes, or at least their severity and intractability, can be attributed fairly obviously to the proximity of the two countries, such as the problems of East Timor and people smuggling. It is reasonable to assume that proximity will continue to generate disputes in the future that would be less serious if only a grea...

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