Australia

Australia

The most problematic of Indonesia's neighborly relations were those with Australia. The tension inherent in the population differential between the two countries in such close geostrategic proximity was exacerbated by the very different political cultures. Criticism of Indonesia in the 1980s and early 1990s by the Australian press, academics, and politicians provoked angry retorts from Jakarta. For example, a story in the early 1980s about corruption in the president's family in the Sydney Morning Herald led to a temporary banning of Australian journalists from Indonesia. The implicit long-term Indonesian "threat," as it appeared in Australia's defense planning documents, underlined a latent suspicion in Jakarta that Australian policy toward Indonesia was based on fear, not friendship. This perception constantly had to be allayed by official Australian visits to Jakarta. For example, there were bitter diplomatic exchanges between the two countries regarding unruly demonstrations over East Timor at the Indonesian embassy in Canberra in November and December 1991. Australian prime minister Paul Keating made a point, despite domestic criticism, of separating the Dili incident from Indonesian state policy and visited Jakarta in April 1992. Once there, he announced that bilateral ties between the two countries had "deepened and broadened."


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