Australia and Indonesia have had a love-hate relationship throughout their history. It began when Australia formally recognized Indonesia as a sovereign and independent state in 1949, and nearly 70 years later, both countries have a right to feel that much remains unresolved.
It seems that the closer Indonesia gets to its friends, the more difficult it finds it to maintain a harmonious bond. Look at Indonesia’s relations with Malaysia, for example. We are like sister countries, sharing geographical proximity, ethnicity and similar languages, cultures, beliefs and values. That said, we simply cannot put up with each other. There are many protracted issues, ranging from illegal fishing to labor policies to disputes over territory.
Likewise, Indonesia and Australia are next-door neighbors, but the differences between the two are at times beyond imagination. There is genuine skepticism about this relationship, to say the least. Australia has predominantly Western influences that infuse the everyday lives of its people, their culture, beliefs and values. Indonesia is nearly the exact opposite. Then there are the political and security issues that have caused setbacks, such as East Timor, the Bali bombings, allegations of espionage, human smuggling and, most recently, the death penalty. In the Timor Sea and the Indian Ocean, the saying “East Meets West” could not be more fitting.
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