As part of its drive to combat possible terrorist infiltration in Southeast Asia, the United States plans to give $16 million to Indonesia. The money will go to train the police force to get around U.S. restrictions on aiding Indonesia's armed forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell heads to Indonesia later this week as part of his eight nation tour to shore up Asian support for the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign.
Washington is planning to provide $16 million to train the Indonesian police and civilian groups.
By funding the police, the United States would not be violating its own congressional ban on normalizing ties with Indonesia's military until its improves civil control and its human rights record.
The Bush Administration would like to resume military aid to Jakarta, as would several of Indonesia's neighbors who have complained that the world's most populous Muslim nation is not doing enough to tackle alleged terror groups operating on its soil.
After meeting with Secretary of State Powell on Tuesday, Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said the best way to help Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, facing anger from radical Islamic groups, is for Washington to fund Indonesia's armed forces, called TNI.
"If President Megawati is to take action against the radicals, the president will require support of the police and the TNI," said Mr. Goh. "The police are still fairly, relatively weaker compared to TNI in terms of such a complex problem."
Mr. Powell agrees and said the U.S. military can do a lot to better train the Indonesian military.
"If we get young officers exposed to a military organization that is within a democratic political institutions, such as the United States and that rubs off on them, you can enhance human rights by exposing them to the best examples of military organizations that are under civilian political control and have a commitment to the people and commitment to human rights and also a commitment to defend their nation," he said.
Human rights groups want the United States to wait until there is more progress on Indonesian military reform.
Some analysts suggest U.S. funding should not go to the Indonesian police either, due to concerns about corruption.
Sidney Jones, ofthe International Crisis Group in Jakarta, an international policy think tank, believes it is more important how the money is used, rather than where it goes.
"When you talk about counter-terrorism, too often you get the image of secrets kinds of activities, whereby civil liberties are compromised," she said." And that's what could undermine the progress that's been made in this country toward democratization and that's what the U.S. has to be very careful to avoid, not just in the terms of the way it shapes the training, but also in terms of how it announces the cooperation that it's going to give."
Meanwhile, hardline Indonesian Islamic groups are planning protests Friday when Secretary Powell meets with President Megawati in Jakarta.