Subject: JP: U.S. to give new impetus to ties with Indonesia: Envoy

December 23, 2004

U.S. to give new impetus to ties with Indonesia: Envoy

Veeramalla Anjaiah, The Jakarta post, Jakarta

With its huge population and dynamic economies, Asia is increasingly poised to become the new strategic center of gravity in global politics, and Indonesia, a Southeast Asian regional power, has a big role to play in that set up.

The recently held presidential election, which was praised as being free and fair, added a new dimension to its stature in international politics.

That is why the U.S., the world's only superpower, is going to give Indonesia -- the second biggest nation in East Asia -- a much better place in its foreign policy calculations.

"There will be a new impetus in U.S. foreign policy toward Indonesia when President George W. Bush's second term begins early next year," the new U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, B. Lynn Pascoe, told The Jakarta Post in a separate interview at his office in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Ambassador Pascoe, who submitted his credentials to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Oct. 28, said that it would take some time to see the impact of this new impetus.

Susilo and Bush laid the foundations for future relations when they met in Santiago, Chile, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in November 2004.

Indonesia has been an important partner in the U.S.' global war against terror since 2001, although Jakarta fiercely opposes Washington's policies on Iraq and the Middle East.

The Bush administration is determined to help Indonesia's infant democracy grow, said Pascoe.

"The main objective of my mission is to see how the U.S. can help Indonesia progress. Because, if Indonesia progresses, the system moves forward, and it will have an impact on our bilateral relations," said Pascoe, a veteran diplomat who served in various positions in Malaysia, Taiwan, Russia, Hong Kong and Thailand during his more than 35 years of distinguished service.

The U.S. has been giving US$160 million per year to Indonesia as aid.

"We want to strengthen Indonesia's institutions in sectors like education, health and human resources. We also want to help the Indonesian police through assistance and training," Pascoe, who speaks fluent Mandarin and understands a little Bahasa Indonesia, said during his first encounter with Indonesian media on Tuesday.

He said the U.S. wants to see Indonesia, a large, moderate and democratic country, develop its institutions and prosper.

During his stay in Jakarta, perhaps, Pascoe will face a litmus test in some areas.

Anti-Americanism is very high in Indonesia because of the U.S.' Iraq policy. It is going to be a tough task for the new ambassador in Indonesia, which is home to the largest Muslim population in the world.

But Pascoe, a master in the art of diplomacy, is confident that he can improve the situation.

"I will talk to as many people as possible. Just now I talked to Indonesian media people. I directly say what I believe in. But what is important is to make it quite clear when you are talking (to Indonesians) that there is no hidden agenda on the U.S. side," Pascoe said, while adding that he was very much impressed by the hospitality and friendship extended to him during his two months' stay in Jakarta.

Indonesia and the U.S. have some problems in the defense sector. The U.S. government imposed a military embargo on Indonesia after Indonesia's military personnel were allegedly involved in East Timor's mayhem, in which at least 1,400 people were killed, in September 1999.

The Bush administration had hoped to resume military cooperation but the U.S. Congress is reluctant to give its approval for the removal of the embargo.

"Hundreds of people were killed in East Timor. The U.S. Congress says there should be some accountability. the Indonesian foreign minister and the East Timorese foreign minister are now at the United Nations to resolve human rights cases. Let's see how it develops," Pascoe said.

While responding to a question on U.S. investment, Pascoe said Indonesia must create a conducive investment climate.

"There should be sanctity of the contract," Pascoe said.

He also said that foreign investment in Indonesia had been on the decline in recent years. Moreover, people are scared after seeing investors jailed without proper investigations.

"American investors were detained without a proper judicial process, like in the Newmont case. It will scare investors," Pascoe, who has two daughters and two granddaughters, said.

U.S. companies have so far invested over $7.5 billion in Indonesia. This year until October 2004, approved U.S. investments in Indonesia reached $125.2 million.

Pascoe emphasized that Indonesia has huge potential because of its abundant natural resources, infrastructure and quality human resources. Several U.S. investors are very much interested in investing in Indonesia, but, for that to happen, the government must send the right signals out to investors.

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