The United States-Indonesia Relationship: A Brief History

The U.S.-Indonesia relationship has been characterized by changing opportunities and challenges, highs and lows, from the late 1940s until today. The relationship has grown stronger over the years. We are at no better time than today, with a democratic Indonesia and two presidents with direct experience in each other’s country.

The bilateral relationship launched after World War II when the U.S. Government, in coordination with other countries and the United Nations, put pressure on the Dutch government to recognize the declared independence of Indonesia.

From this high caPresident Obama and President Yudhoyonome a low period, as Indonesian President Sukarno became increasingly closer to Asian communist nations and the Communist Party of Indonesia. Relations improved under Suharto’s New Order government. Significant debt rescheduling arrangements were helped in part by the United States, which also played a large role in mobilizing international economic aid for Indonesia.

In the late 1980s through the early 2000s, the relationship came to a low again starting with U.S. sanctions against the Indonesian military after the Santa Cruz incident in Dili, and continuing again with U.S. military action in Iraq.

Since then we have been on a steady rise. Indonesia’s three successful elections in 2004 and two more in 2009 demonstrated its commitment to democracy. U.S. provided quick support to tsunami victims in Aceh, and U.S. military sanctions began to be lifted incrementally as Indonesia’s military underwent internal reform.

Today, the United States and Indonesia share much in common. Indonesia and United States have much to collaborate and cooperate on in topics of global importance and shared concern. From climate change (Indonesia and the United States are among some of the top emitters of greenhouse gases, yet have complementary needs), science and technology (Indonesia has a wealth of resources and both countries will benefit from expanded research on improving rice production), and to business (Indonesia presents an attractive market for U.S. business expansion, which will create needed jobs), a partnership between the United States and Indonesia based on friendship and equality is essential for the world’s second and third largest democracies.