U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington and Jakarta are moving toward normal military ties, which, he says, will improve human rights in Indonesia.
The U.S. secretary of state praised the government of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri for its democratic reforms and its support for the war on terror.
Mr. Powell said the two nations have started toward resuming full military relations, which he says will help improve the Indonesian military's human rights performance. He said, however, that full military ties are still a long way off. "We believe that programs, such as international military education and training and fellowship programs, that expose Indonesian military personnel to United States training and to U.S. personnel helps with respect to human rights issues," he said.
The United States suspended military ties with Indonesia after its armed forces were implicated in human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999.
After meeting with Indonesia's foreign minister, Mr. Powell said the United States wants to support efforts to improve Indonesia's police, which often have to deal with extremist groups. Washington said last month that it will give Indonesia $16 million for its police force, which is not affected by the ban on military ties.
The vast majority of Indonesia's 210 million people are moderate Muslims. Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said the country sees little risk from extremist Muslim groups. "The fact is that Indonesia is not Afghanistan. And we don't believe that Indonesia would be the future Afghanistan. … And the fact there are small groups that have a tendency or orientation toward radicalism doesn't mean that they are majority; they are only small groups of them," he said.
Some analysts say the radical groups were created by the Indonesian military to manipulate the United States for financial assistance. James Van Zorge, a political analyst with the Jakarta consultancy group, Van Zorge, Heffernana and Associates said "they're being exploited by the Indonesian military. Until the U.S. government gets that message and understands it, they will fail to take apart these groups in Indonesia."
Mr. Powell completes his tour of Southeast Asia in the Philippines.