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Indonesian President Arrives Australia


President Yudhoyono of Indonesia has been awarded one of the country's top honors, an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia, for his work strengthening ties between the two neighbors.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has begun a three-day visit to Australia. While Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd says his country's relationship with Jakarta is "multifaceted, vibrant and growing", some political analysts say the relationship could be too narrowly focused.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd welcomed the Indonesian president to Canberra Tuesday. President Yudhoyono was awarded one of the country's top honors, an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia, for his work strengthening ties between the two neighbors.

Senior members in the Rudd government say that Australia's relationship with Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population of more than 200 million people, is one of its most important.

Mr. Yudhoyono will address a joint sitting of the Federal Parliament Wednesday, the first time an Indonesian leader has done so. His three-day visit is expected to focus on trade as well as cooperation on combating extremism and people smuggling. The president may also discuss the fate of three young Australians on death row in Indonesia for drug offenses.

Regional political analysts at Sydney's Lowy Institute say that ties have become bogged down by negative issues, including terrorism, illegal fishing and the human trafficking, while key business and social relations have been ignored.

"At the people-to-people level mutual public perceptions are very poor," said Fergus Hanson, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute. "The business-to-business links are very much underdone and at the government level while that is quite a positive relationship, it tends to focus on quite negative issues like terrorism, illegal fishing and people smuggling."

Hanson thinks the relationship could be improved by a broad economic vision that looks up to 30 years into the future.

Indonesia is Australia's 13th-largest trading partner. About 400 Australian companies operate in Indonesia, including mining, construction and banking businesses.

In a joint message printed in an Australian newspaper, Prime Minister Rudd and President Yudhoyono called the relationship resilient as both governments seek to combat terrorism, the global economic crisis and climate change.

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