Subject: No strings attached to U.S. aid to Indonesia: Analysts

The Jakarta Post September 22, 2001

No strings attached to U.S. aid: Analysts

JAKARTA (JP): Are there any strings attached to the promised military and financial aid from the United States? A number of analysts believe there are not.

Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies says he does not see any link between the aid pledged by the U.S. and Indonesia's commitment to support the global war against terrorism.

"If any, it is only at the diplomatic level, but it is not the real objective of the U.S.," Kusnanto told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said the U.S. did not expect too much from Indonesia's support as it had already secured support from many Arab countries.

Besides, Kusnanto said, the United Nations' resolutions already provided a strong and legitimate basis for the U.S. to fight terrorism.

Dewi Fortuna Anwar, of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that Indonesia's support for the global war against terrorism was not the main reason why the U.S. heaped promises of aid to Megawati.

Dewi cited three long-term considerations behind the promises.

First, Indonesia has a very important role to play in the Southeast Asian region. The U.S. does not want to see a weak Indonesia.

Second, the U.S. wants to help smoothen the transition process toward democracy in Indonesia.

Third, to protect U.S. interests in Indonesia, as there are many U.S. companies operating here.

President George W. Bush and President Megawati Soekarnoputri issued a joint statement in Washington on Wednesday. Bush promised Megawati to restore U.S. military aid and pledged financial aid totaling US$657.4 million.

The statement also sought for a renewal of military ties between the two countries, which had been disrupted since September 1999, soon after the TNI was allegedly involved in violence after East Timor's ballot for independence.

The U.S. imposed an embargo on arms and spare parts and froze its international military training, cooperation on education and foreign military funds.

Fellow analyst at LIPI, Riza Sihbudi, said he feared that the U.S. attached strings to its promises.

"As long as the commitment is limited to support a global war against terrorism it is OK. What I am worried about is that the commitment includes a dissolution of what is perceived as hard-line Islamic organizations by U.S. diplomats," he said.

"Megawati should reject the aid if it comes with the condition that Indonesia should fulfill all U.S. demands," he said, adding that Megawati became president, in part, due to support from Muslim groups.

Riza said the U.S. needed support from Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, in its efforts to pursue Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, a prime suspect of the attack against Washington and New York on Sept. 11.

Dewi said the American policy looked like a carrot-and-stick approach.

"I think such an approach is still used by the U.S. in its dealings with Indonesia. But we should not think negatively about the aid as it is not wise if support from Indonesia is used as an exchange for aid," said the former adviser to president B.J. Habibie.

If such an approach persists it would be counterproductive as it could offend nationalist sentiments.

Had Megawati not pledged her support to fight international terrorism, she said, she doubted that the generous promises would be made so soon.

Human rights campaigner Munir said financial aid from the U.S. was promised with the hope that Indonesia would control anti-American groups in the country.

"This is a new cold war waged by the U.S. against the Middle East," said the former coordinator for the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence.

Some radical Islamic groups have threatened to attack the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and to search and expel U.S. citizens from Indonesia as soon as the U.S. launch a military attack on any country in the Middle East.

The House of Representatives will summon Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda next week to explain the background of the promised aid, Chairman of Commission I on foreign affairs Ibrahim Ambong said on Thursday.

Separately, the Indonesian Military (TNI) hailed the U.S. decision to restore military aid to Indonesia.

"We are grateful that finally such an agreement has been reached, which will benefit both countries," TNI spokesman Rear Air Marshall Graito Usodo told reporters at TNI headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta on Friday.

Kusnanto, however, said he was pessimistic that military relations could be normalized soon, as there were conditions that required Indonesia to resolve its human rights issues first.

"Moreover, Bush needs approval from the Congress to restore military relations with Indonesia," he said, adding that he appreciated the U.S.'s commitment to educate civilians on defense matters.

"It is important because it will help civilians control the military. How can legislators oversee the military when they do not understand defense matters." (02/09/tso/hbk)

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