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.
x
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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More