U.S.-Indonesian Ties, Muslim Dialogue Mark Obama’s Trip

BY Larisa Epatko  November 9, 2010 at 8:45 AM EST


Portraits of President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife, Ani, in Jakarta. Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

During a 24-hour visit to Indonesia, President Obama plans to meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to emphasize the two countries’ strengthened ties, and to deliver a second major speech to the Muslim world.

Mr. Obama’s visit is part of a tour of Asia during which he voiced support for India’s bid to hold a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. Later this week, he plans to take part in the G-20 economic summit in South Korea and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, meeting in Japan.

The president twice canceled trips to Indonesia earlier this year, and an erupting Mount Merapi threatened to again derail the trip.

But the trip, albeit a brief one, is expected to give Indonesia some glow in the international spotlight, said Jeffrey Winters, associate professor at Northwestern University. Indonesia wants to be seen as a dynamic, democratic spot in Asia, not as a place where militant Islamic organization Jemaah Islamiyah blows up hotels, embassies, and discos every few years, or where tsunami and volcanic disasters repeatedly strike, he said.

Bill Liddle, professor at Ohio State University, said during the visit both presidents are planning to launch a “comprehensive partnership” that might include cooperation on higher education and the environment.

In addition, President Obama is seeking in Indonesia an ally against China, which is trying to redefine the Asia zone on its own terms, said Winters. The United States also wants to make sure that fundamentalist Islam and terrorists do not gain ground in the democratic country, he said. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world.

On Wednesday, the president plans to deliver a speech about renewing efforts to reach out to the Muslim world, following his first landmark address to the Muslim community in Egypt in June 2009.

President Obama lived in Indonesia for four years as a child. But instead of visiting his boyhood home this year, the White house alluded to the possibility that he might return next year, Agence-France Presse reported.

Daniel Sagalyn contributed reporting. Watch for more coverage on the NewsHour broadcast.