U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently met with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa at the State Department for the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Indonesia Joint Commission. Secretary Clinton called Indonesia "a great bilateral partner," and said much progress had been made in the last 18 months since a comprehensive partnership was forged by President Barack Obama and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
"We are both diverse societies," said Secretary Clinton, "with traditions of pluralism, tolerance, respect for the rights of women and minorities. We share an abiding interest in a more prosperous Southeast Asia and a more peaceful world. And we applaud the role that Indonesia is playing, not only as an advocate for democracy around the world, but on the environment, on climate change, on so many other critical issues."
The Joint Commission established working groups to focus on 6 main issues: democracy, the environment, security, energy, education, and trade and investment. With regard to education, Secretary Clinton said she is particularly excited to bring more Indonesian students to the United States and more American students to Indonesia over the next 5 years. The U.S. and Indonesia also discussed ways to expand bilateral trade and to extend cooperation on climate change and the promotion of democracy and human rights.
The importance of religious freedom and tolerance was raised by both Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Natalegawa. Earlier this month in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, a group of assailants attacked 2 Christian leaders in East Pondonk Regency. President Yudhoyono condemned the attack saying "that any hostility, including destroying and burning any sacred religious symbol, is against the law and should be regarded as a violation of the latter. Inflicting physical violence on people from other different religious groups is not allowed." Secretary Clinton said both countries have to "stay focused on preventing such provocation, speaking out against it, and then if laws are broken, immediately moving to bring those to justice."
The U.S.-Indonesia Joint Commission will continue its work of enhancing cooperation between the world’s second and third largest democracies when it again meets in Indonesia in 2011.