The Republic of Indonesia is located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans in Southeast Asia. According to cia.gov, Indonesia is comprised of 13,466 separate islands, 922 of which are inhabited. This makes it the world’s largest, archipelagic state. Its population of over 250 million qualifies Indonesia as the fourth largest population in the world, and the third most populous democracy.
Ever since declaring its independence in 1945, Indonesia has become an increasingly stable, populous, and economically successful country. Indonesia officially became a constitutional democracy in 1950; however, many of the country’s presidents, including former President Suharto, attempted to take Indonesia in a more authoritarian and communist direction. Since Suharto’s resignation in 1998, Indonesia has made great strides towards becoming a true democracy. This can be seen in the country’s recent corruption scandal that unfolded in December of 2015. Setya Novato, the elected speaker of Indonesia’s House of Representatives, was caught on tape attempting to extort four billion dollars from the company Freeport-McMoran, which is based in Jakarta, the country’s capital. The incident has been referred to as “Indonesia’s Watergate,” not just for the parallels between Novato and former U.S. president Richard Nixon, but also for the role the press played in the incident. Under former president Suharto, the press had been suppressed, and unable to actively report on government corruption. The Novato scandal marked a change. The press thoroughly covered the emerging scandal and subsequent ethics hearings, putting pressure on the government to force Novato’s eventual resignation. Indonesia’s free and active press, as well as increasingly democratic leaders and a newfound commitment to fighting government corruption, are aiding the country’s transition into a full and practicing democracy.
Since establishing its official borders, Indonesia has been involved in relatively few international conflicts. In fact, Indonesia has actively been involved in international peace-keeping. According to The Jakarta Post, it recently sent 140 personnel on a UN peace-keeping mission to Sudan. However, in the early days of 2017, Indonesia was involved in a conflict with one of its closest allies, Australia. On January 4, Indonesian government officials announced the country has suspended both military and economic cooperation with Australia. According to The New York Times, this was due to offensive material found on an Australian military base. Official training materials had said to have contained writings insulting “Pancasila,” which is belief that is very important to the Indonesian people. However, two days later, leaders from both countries made public statements claiming Indonesia was no longer completely withdrawing from its relationship with Australia, and that the relationship between the two countries remains amicable and unchanged. Indonesia will only suspend ties in “language training” until Australia takes action to rectify the issue of offensive information found on their base.
Indonesia has recently come under fire for its relationship to the recently elected U.S. President Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s organization is said to be moving ahead with two new business deals in Indonesia, despite the many conflicts of interests it would cause for the new president. Trump is said to be working closely with Indonesian billionaire Hary Tanesoedibjo. Tanesoedibjo previously ran for vice president in 2014, and plans for run for public office again in the future. His relationship with Trump is raising many concerns about the possible dangers and conflicts of interest that could arise if two world leaders are involved in business together. Trump’s ties to Indonesia have already come under scrutiny. Despite being the world’s largest Muslim-majority country (87.2% of the population identifies as Muslim), Indonesia was exempt from Trump’s recently imposed “Muslim Ban.” Trump signed an executive order which bars people with passports from seven Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the United States. Many suspect Trump excluded Indonesia from the executive order because of his personal stakes in the country.