News / Asia

Indonesia, Australia Mend Ties After Surveillance Scandal

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, talks with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia,  Dec. 5 2013.Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, talks with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 5 2013.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, talks with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia,  Dec. 5 2013.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, talks with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 5 2013.
Australia has accepted Indonesia’s roadmap for an intelligence “code of conduct,” allaying some uncertainty about how far it was willing to go to make amends for eavesdropping on the Indonesian president through his cell phone.
Despite the fact that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott initially declined to apologize for the spying and commit to a code of conduct, Julie Bishop, the country’s foreign minister agreed to Indonesia’s conditions during a visit to Jakarta on Thursday. Specifically, she said Australia would cooperate with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on his six-point plan to rebuild trust between their two countries.
“We regret the hurt caused to President Yudhoyono and to the Indonesian people,” Bishop said during her one-day visit, which itself was the first of the six steps.
The other steps involve drafting the code of conduct and evaluating its success. In the meantime, Canberra and Jakarta will put a “hotline” in place to improve communication.
The two otherwise friendly nations got entangled in the diplomatic spat last month, when the phone tapping came to light through documents released by Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor. The revelations widened the global scope of Snowden’s leaks, which had already alleged the United States conducted surveillance operations in France and Germany. Now, the six-point plan begins a test of whether Snowden’s disclosures will change the way governments gather intelligence on both their friends and enemies.
“I suspect that the matter will quietly fall away, presuming Australia's government doesn't do anything to make it worse in the coming months,” said Elisabeth Kramer, a candidate in the Department of Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney.
She reflected a general belief that it is inevitable that things will return to normal, with both Australia and Indonesia emerging largely unscathed. That would suggest that, despite the uproar that follows news of espionage, the scolding is brief and the fallout can be contained.

Questions linger
Which is not to say damage has been minimal. In response to the spying, Indonesia has refused cooperation on areas key to Australian interests, including terrorism and boat refugees. Here in the Indonesian capital, citizens took to the streets to burn pictures of Abbott, pelt eggs at the Australian embassy, and brandish signs reading, "Go to hell Australia."
“I don’t know why Australia did that to us,” said Veni Juniarti, a young accountant from Bandung, 160 kilometers southeast of Jakarta. She was “shocked” by the spying but looks forward to good relations with Australia. “We should go back to the way things were before, I hope.”
As Canberra refocuses on the “Asian Century,” Dave McRae, a specialist in Australia-Indonesia relations at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, said Indonesia has been important in supporting Australia’s involvement in regional cooperation, such as the East Asia summit. He said that factors into the process of winding down this row between the two large democracies.
“Certainly there are broader economic and strategic considerations at play,” McRae said.
Indonesian politicians of all stripes have burnished their nationalist credentials ahead of a 2014 election by wagging their fingers at Australia. That’s especially true for Yudhoyono, whose detractors call him a lame duck who cozies up to westerners. Cynics say the outrage was feigned for political gain because Indonesians already know they’re monitored.
McRae didn’t say whether Yudhoyono was genuinely insulted by Australia’s spying, but “whatever the president’s personal feelings, he also had a public audience to address.”
Bishop’s visit seemed to be good for that public audience, and for mending ties between Indonesia and Australia, which looks increasingly likely. As Kramer put it, “Our governments get over things pretty quickly.”

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs