Jakarta was President Barack Obama's childhood home for several years. His long awaited visit there this month was the first time he returned to Indonesia as President of the United States.
At a press briefing before President Obama's arrival, Jeff Bader, Senior Director for Asian Affairs in the National Security Council, discussed the trip in the context of the President's Asia strategy which emphasizes renewed engagement with Asia.
The 3 things that we’ve been focused on, Mr. Bader said, "are strengthening our leadership in Asia, strengthening our relationships with emerging powers that have come up in the late 20th and early 21st century, and deepening economic cooperation with emerging markets." Indonesia will be playing a key role in all aspects of the President's Asia strategy.
"We have tried to highlight Indonesia’s growing importance in this administration. It’s not just the President’s biography, but also the importance of the country," Mr. Bader explained. "Indonesia is a growing economy as a member of the G20. It’s an important security partner as we join with them on counterterrorism and other issues. It’s a leader in Southeast Asia, and will be taking on the leadership of ASEAN this coming year. ... They’ll also assume the chairmanship of the East Asia Summit, which President Obama will be attending next year." Mr. Bader noted that Indonesia is "a major player on climate change internationally [and] a major actor in the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Countries."
The comprehensive partnership that President Barack Obama and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will announce "is a symbol and a manifestation of the new level to which we are taking the U.S.-Indonesia relationship," said Mr. Bader. "It has three broad components -- political security issues, economic issues and people-to-people issues."
Concerning people-to-people relations, Mr. Bader noted that the U.S. plans to provide $165 million in assistance for higher education in Indonesia over the next 5 years.
During his speech at the University of Indonesia, President Obama said the United States and Indonesia "are increasing ties between our governments in many different areas, and, just as importantly, we are increasing ties among our people. This is a partnership of equals, grounded in mutual interests and mutual respect."