Indonesia and Fiji to push relationship
An expert on Melanesia says the Indonesian president's presence at the Pacific Islands Development Forum demonstrates both countries' push to develop international relationships.
An expert on Melanesia says the Indonesian president's presence at the Pacific Islands Development Forum in Fiji demonstrates both countries' push to develop international relationships.
The president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, arrived in Nadi on Tuesday for the second summit of the Forum, where he will be the keynote speaker.
The first Indonesian president to visit Fiji is also expected to hold talks with senior government officials.
The Lowy Institute's Melanesia program director, Jenny Hayward-Jones, says the Indonesian government wants to send a message that it values its relationship with the region.
She told Mary Baines talks are likely to be on building economic ties between Indonesia and the Pacific, but the issue of West Papua will probably be avoided.
JENNY HAYWARD-JONES: From Fiji's perspective it's enormously important for its Pacific Islands Development Forum to be hosting someone as important as the Indonesian President. It's massive for Prime Minister Bainimarama to get someone with such a wide stature to that event, given that it's the only the second time it has been held. So I think it really does demonstrate that Fiji has really pushed ahead with developing its international relationships with emerging economies such as Indonesia. From Indonesia's perspective, I think it's important for the Indonesian government to be sending a message of support for Melanesian countries given that the issue of West Papua is still a bone of contention between Indonesia and many countries of Melanesia, so I think, you know, that really sends a strong statement from Indonesia that it attaches a lot of importance to this relationship.
MARY BAINES: Is Indonesia trying to position itself for more integration in the Pacific in the long term?
JHJ: It's probably a little early to draw that direct message but I think certainly Indonesia is looking to expand its international profile. I'm hesitant, because I think Indonesia's primary interest at the moment is still to occupy the land, the issue of West Papua's future status and the Melanesian Spearhead Group's views of that. So I think that drives a lot of what Indonesia thinks about Melanesia in particular, but certainly Indonesia is pushing its international ambitions. I mean, at least at the moment, with President SBY, we'll have to see what happens after the Indonesian elections, but generally they see relations with their neighbours in the Pacific as important, and we've seen Indonesia and Papua New Guinea for example forge ahead with increasing the tempo of their relationship in the last year or so.
MB: What kind of discussions on the West Papua issue do you think are going to be had?
JHJ: I don't think we will see much too much discussion of that issue, I think it's more around sending the signal that Indonesia values countries close to the region, of the Pacific Island region and particularly values its relationship with Melanesian countries including Fiji. So I think probably you'll see avoidance of the West Papua issue if anything. But I think what you'll see is the Indonesian president talk about the importance of more economic ties, more trade and investment, which is certainly possible, certainly there's opportunities for that. I think you'll probably see him talk about more educational ties between Indonesia and the region and probably offering to help Pacific Island countries interact more with Asian countries. I think that's an avenue that Indonesia does provide with its leadership, does provide access to other South East Asian countries.
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