Wednesday 05 Oct 2022 | 20:37 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 05 Oct 2022 | 20:37 | SYDNEY

Australia, Indonesia junior partner


Michael Wesley


31 August 2010 07:56

Malcolm Cook recently took me to task for my excessively realist take on Indonesia. The essence of his argument was, 'Why should Australia be worried about an Indonesia that is democratic and prosperous, Washington-aligned, and has a powerful navy and air force''

Well, why indeed. It's a really good question and made me think a bit.

Hypothetically, let's say Indonesia in 2050 is the world's sixth largest country by population (according to UN estimates, India, China, the US, Pakistan and Nigeria will have larger populations than Indonesia in 2050) and also has the world's sixth most powerful military. It is stable, prosperous and aligned with the US.

Where does that leave us' A bit like New Zealand. There would be little we could add to Indonesia's efforts to ensure order in the South China Sea and eastern Indian Ocean, so why not scale down and enjoy a peace dividend'

It would also make us a bit like Canada. With our own security guaranteed by a powerful neighbour that needs to protect the southern approaches to its own territory, we'll be left searching for a clear and differentiated role in the region and the world.

But spot the difference – Canada and New Zealand share close cultural continuities with their more powerful neighbours. If this is the future we're heading towards, shouldn't we be making a bit more of an effort to understand Indonesian society and culture, and even speak a bit of the lingo'