Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 06:39 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 06:39 | SYDNEY

We can afford to be firm with Indonesia

26 November 2010 14:01

Natalie Sambhi is a graduate of the Asia–Pacific College of Diplomacy and Graduate Studies in International Affairs at the Australian National University.

I thank Greta Nabbs-Keller for her response to my 17 November piece on Australia's engagement with Indonesia. At the heart of Greta's response is a 'softly, softly' approach for Australia in upholding human rights protection with respect to Indonesia. No doubt, we will require a new paradigm for dealing with Indonesia's rise. It must, however, allow Australia to engage with its neighbour in a constructive manner and be forthright in its foreign policy stance.

Speaking up on matters of human rights abuse has not been a hindrance to the development of relationships of strategic importance. Australia maintains a firm stance on human rights with China (former Prime Minister Rudd famously confronted the Tibet issue before an audience of Peking University students), and the relationship continues to strengthen. In early November, Rudd announced the resumption of formal human rights talks with China, while Australia and China continue to deepen their military ties.

To briefly touch on the other matters raised in Greta's response, the choice of Kopassus as a case study by no means ignores the allegations of human rights abuses by TNI and the Indonesian national police. Greta points out there are 'ongoing abuses...throughout Indonesia', which serves to strengthen the case for Australia to take a firm and clear stance with Indonesia on human rights protection.

Furthermore, the US is by no means represented in my piece as an exemplar. I would have elaborated on the limitations of Leahy, but given the constraints of the piece, I described it as a departure point from which Australia might examine how to best uphold our human rights principles internationally.

The bilateral relationship between Australia and Indonesia is sufficiently robust to withstand our expectations on human rights. To remain ambiguous or tentative on human rights by not stating our expectations is to treat emerging liberal democracies like Indonesia in an outdated and paternalistic manner.

Photo by Flickr user Luther Bailey, used under a Creative Commons license.