To US, Indonesia’s leverage
in world, region ‘still

The United States still excludes Indonesia from becoming part of the force that could help solve the world’s biggest problems as US President Barack Obama’s speech implied at the University of Indonesia on Wednesday, experts say.

In his speech before more than 6,000 people, Obama said emerging economies such as Indonesia had a greater voice and also bore a “greater responsibility for guiding the global economy” through the G20.

He also said Indonesia, like India, could become an example to the world to show that democracy and development reinforced one another, without having to trade away the right of human beings for the power of the state.

University of Indonesia international relations experts Syamsul Hadi and Andi Widjajanto said Thursday what Obama was trying to say through his speech was actually that Indonesia did not count as a US partner in resolving conflicts, for example, those in the Middle East and East Asia.

“Obama seems to still view Indonesia as limited to low politics that tend to be possible for discussion only within a multilateral forum,” Andi said.

“However, when it comes to dealing with high politics, or sensitive issues, to the US, Indonesia does not count.”

Andi said Obama would have mentioned the need for Indonesia to be involved in, for example, peace efforts together with the US in the Middle East if Indonesia was highly regarded, as Obama was well aware that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had a great ambition to take part in conflict resolution.

Obama also did not say anything about what Indonesia could do in the South China Sea dispute or in the currency war, he said.

The currency war, which sees China and the US on the battleground over their maneuvers to weaken their currencies, has been under the spotlight of the global community, particularly on concerns that it will create asset bubbles in emerging countries.

“The US prefers to propose new regulations in the international monetary sector to end the currency war,” said Andi.

Echoing Andi, Syamsul said what Obama addressed was “merely diplomacy”, but that his speech impressed his audience as it was exactly what Indonesians wanted to hear.

Syamsul also said that Obama’s visit to the university, an educational center, was an example of Obama using “soft power” to look for a “friend” through image building amid the US’ declining economic power.

“Obama visited India first because he wants India to be more active in border conflict resolutions in the region, for example the conflict between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands [or Diayou Islands in Chinese],” said Syamsul, underlining that India had more leverage compared to Indonesia.

“The US’ interests in Indonesia are the latter’s more active role in ASEAN.

“It would be a remarkable thing if Indonesia could help overcome disputes on Spratly Islands [in South China Sea] and even Senkaku Islands.”

Syamsul also questioned Obama’s statement that Indonesia was important and strategic to the US, as he visited Indonesia less than 24 hours, but had stayed for three days in India and had made a visit to India’s financial and commercial capital of Mumbai.

“If Obama wants the US to become Indonesia’s number one trade partner, he would not have visited Istiqlal Mosque and the University of Indonesia, but the Indonesian Stock Exchange or factories,” he said.

“Moreover, would Indonesia’s purchasing power be strong enough to meet imported goods from the US if bilateral trade volume increases?”

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