Subject: NYTimes: U.S. to Renew Relationship With Military in Indonesia

also: [AFP] Top US official holds military talks with Indonesia's Megawati

The New York Times Sunday, August 12, 2001

U.S. to Renew Relationship With Military in Indonesia


WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 --The Bush administration plans to renew some American ties to the Indonesian military, the most powerful institution in the sprawling Southeast Asian country but one fraught with human rights abuses.

The decision is part of an effort to cement stronger ties with Indonesia, one of the most important but unstable countries in the region, after the relatively smooth coming to power of the new president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose ascent was supported by the military.

The Pentagon once had longstanding ties with the Indonesian military, dating back to the early days of the cold war. But relations have been circumscribed since the early 1990's over human rights abuses.

Critics of the plan to revive ties say America's past training of Indonesian troops did little to prevent the widespread abuses, in particular those that accompanied the secession of East Timor from the country three years ago.

In re-establishing military ties, the Bush administration says it would like to help ensure the stability of the country, a vast archipelago that has been riven by separatist movements.

Indonesia is seen as pivotal for the stability of Southeast Asia and, administration officials say, has assumed new significance as the broader region stumbles through an unexpected period of economic downturn and political uncertainty.

In a special gesture, the United States trade representative, Robert B. Zoellick, was dispatched on a detour from India to Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. He arrived there today to discuss a range of issues beyond his usual trade portfolio. Next month, the Pentagon plans to send Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the United States Pacific commander, to begin plans for re-engagement with the army.

But as the administration moves forward, senior members of Congress and human rights groups warn that the Indonesian military has shown little interest in serious reform. They fear that Mrs. Megawati, a proud nationalist, will give the military a free hand in crushing a new secessionist rebellion that has been building in the province of Aceh.

Gareth Evan, a former foreign minister of Australia who is now the president of the International Crisis Group, which specializes in conflict prevention, acknowledged last month that many of Australia's efforts to train a more professional Indonesian military had "helped only to produce more professional human rights abuses."

Senior Bush administration officials say, however, that they will take a step-by-step approach that will allow them to exercise a positive influence. The army, they argue, stayed mostly on the sidelines during the crisis when President Abdurrahman Wahid was removed from power.

"The military has acted with honor and correctness during the transition to democracy," a senior administration official said. "We think that now is the time to think of re-engagement. They have behaved well for the most part."

Administration officials say they plan to stop short of training the Indonesian military and of selling it weaponry, both of which are banned under Congressional restrictions. But officials said they had asked Congress to consider some flexibility so that junior Indonesian officers could be trained in operations like peacekeeping and disaster relief.

But Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the author of much of the legislation that circumscribes any relationship with the Indonesian military, said he was concerned that the administration wanted to rush ahead.

"They want operational contacts, search and rescue, fisheries patrol, nonlethal arms sales, high-level meetings," Mr. Leahy said. "I think that's moving very, very quickly."

Michael Jendrzejczyk, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch, said it was "premature to move toward significant re-engagement with the military." He added that Mrs. Megawati needed to demonstrate a willingness to seek accountability for the abuses committed by the military in Aceh, East Timor and other restive areas.

In shaping their policies, administration officials said they would not go beyond the Congressional constraints. But they also emphasized that now was the time for the United States to seize an early chance to promote a model of military professionalism in an institution whose formal role in politics was terminated during the Wahid era.

During his visit to Jakarta, Mr. Zoellick invited Mrs. Megawati to the White House in early September, signaling the administration's willingness to embrace her.

As they map their course in Indonesia, the administration is guided at its most senior levels by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, who once served as ambassador to Indonesia.

Agence France Presse August 11, 2001

Top US official holds military talks with Indonesia's Megawati



US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said on Saturday he had delivered a message of strong support to Indonesia's new President Megawati Sukarnoputri and discussed with her a possible restoration of military contacts.

"President (George W.) Bush asked me personally to come to Indonesia to convey his strong interest and support for a united, democratic and economically successful Indonesia," Zoellick told reporters after meeting Megawati for more than two hours at her official residence.

"He asked me to relay his support for the president personally."

Zoellick, the first high level foreign visitor since Megawati took office on July 23, said she had accepted Bush's invitation to visit Washington on September 19.

He said he conveyed to the president the possibility of restoring "some basic military-to-military contacts".

"I emphasised that these contacts would focus on the critical area of reform of the Indonesan military and support for the professionalisation of the military," he said.

The United States severed most of its military ties after Indonesian troops were implicated in the bloody rampage that followed East Timor's vote for independence from Jakarta in August 1999.

"These (contacts) will be done within the limits that we operate under US laws.

"We had consultation with the US Congress about starting these in a fashion that will help support the effort to bring the Indonesian military within the civilian and democratic structure that President Megawati and her team are putting together," Zoellick added.

He said he was "delighted" with the long-awaited cabinet list Megawati announced on Thursday, describing it as "extraordinarily strong".

"We believe that she is taking on important challenges and her early steps demonstrated her skills and ability to deal with Indonesian economic, political and security issues," he said.

Megawati became Indonesia's fifth president in July in place of the sacked Abdurrahman Wahid.

Professionals account for more than half the cabinet, with 13 positions, mainly less senior ones, going to political parties.

Zoellick told a later press conference he advised the government to focus on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic programme.

"I spoke to the president about our commitment to work with the president and her new team to try to move promptly to complete the Letter of Intent so that the disbursement can flow," he said.

The IMF has suspended the next 400-million-dollar (448-million-euro) instalment of its loan pending economic reforms. The new administration must mend ties with the IMF which were strained under Wahid.

Zoellick said Washington has also agreed to recreate a trade and industry council, which was launched in 1996 and had been frozen since 1997.

He said his visit was aimed at discussing ways the US "could be helpful" and ways "of creating an environment in which private investment and business will help generate jobs and a positive future for Indonesians".

Zoellick came to Jakarta following talks in New Delhi, where he urged India to support a new round of global liberalisation talks when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meets in Qatar in November.

Southeast Asian nations meeting in Vietnam last month expressed reservations about the new WTO talks, insisting Western countries had first to implement existing agreements.

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