Bilateral relations between Indonesia and Australia are like a teenage love story. While it’s normal that any relationship experiences its ups and downs, ties between Australia and Indonesia can change particularly quickly from great to very bad
Just several months ago, Australian officials and media called President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Australia’s biggest friend. The president was welcomed with a standing ovation at the Australian parliament, with most lawmakers in Canberra concluding that relations were at a historic high.
Many of us here in Indonesia also believed that Australia was finally putting enough trust in Indonesia and that suspicion left over from the New Order era — when Australians believed the Indonesian Military was about to invade — had faded.
But just weeks later, relations fell to a historic low, with reports of Australia spying on Yudhoyono, his wife and other officials making headlines in both countries. Indonesia quickly ordered its envoy to return to Jakarta indefinitely. Now, we are witnessing a further blow, as Australia has admitted it breached Indonesian waters, sparking more anger in Jakarta.
The series of incidents shows that there is a lack of trust and maturity in both nations. And that is a shame, because the people of the two countries have so much to gain from strong and healthy relations.
Indonesian people and officials should work harder to prove our trustworthiness and sincerity to the Australian media and people, who should in return ask their political leaders to act genuinely toward Indonesia.
We expected Australia to believe that Indonesia now is very different from the previous era, when impunity prevailed, and that Australia doesn’t need to spy on us for security reasons. But until this belief is firmly rooted, it will be impossible to strengthen ties permanently. Editorial ‘Jakarta Globe’