U.S. Secretary of state John Kerry recently led a high-level presidential delegation to Asia, his 8th trip to the region in 20 months, for the inauguration of the new Indonesian President, Joko Widodo. “This reflects the importance of Asia,” a Senior U.S. State Department Official said when briefing the press en route to Jakarta, Indonesia which, the official noted, is “the world’s fourth-largest country, third-largest democracy, and largest Muslim-majority nation.”
Secretary Kerry met with many Asian leaders who attended the presidential inaugural ceremony.
“Bilateral meetings provide an opportunity for Secretary Kerry to consult, coordinate, and strategize on pressing issues of today . . . with the three Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nations, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei; the two countries with significant Muslim populations, Singapore and the Philippines; and Australia, a key partner to the United States” the Senior Official said.
Top on the agenda was “the international effort to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” including efforts “to combat violent extremism, to block recruitment, to protect against the solicitation of foreign fighters . . . to guard against the return of hardened fighters to the region, debunking and denigrating extremist propaganda, [and] blocking illicit terrorist financing.”
Other items on the agenda included the global effort to contain Ebola, climate change, maritime issues and the territorial disputes that have challenged regional stability, the upcoming East Asia Summit leaders’ meeting, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
“[This] is a packed, high-level schedule for the Secretary on the sidelines of an event that marks a very important watershed in the democratic development of a . . . Muslim nation with an admirable tradition of tolerance, pluralism, and moderation,” the Senior Official said.
“This inauguration [is] a continuation in a . . . transformation that Indonesia [has] undertaken over the last 15 years from dictatorship through major crisis to a vibrant democracy,” another Senior Official added.
In these elections 140 million people turned out to vote for a different kind of leader who has won large followings by focusing on improving governance. “It’ll be hugely important for Indonesia,” the Senior Official concluded, “but also . . . a good example for other places in the world that could benefit from better governance.”