Understanding Australia-Indonesia relations in the post-authoritarian era: resilience and respect

26 February 2020

Attributing the tempestuous nature of Australia-Indonesia relations to marked cultural differences is almost an article of faith in Australian foreign policy analysis. Indeed, policy and media commentary tends to depict the bilateral relationship as frequently in crisis and at risk of irreparable damage. This article contends that constructs which characterise Australia-Indonesia relations as especially fragile overlook powerful strategic imperatives as a basis for ongoing cooperation. The article examines two key variables shaping Australia-Indonesia relations in the post-authoritarian era—resilience and respect. A perceived lack of consultation by successive Australian Governments on policy announcements of vital national concern to Indonesia has been a catalyst for repeated bilateral tensions in the post-authoritarian era. This has been compounded by important shifts in Indonesia’s post-authoritarian polity and the state’s rising significance in international economic and political terms. The article concludes that in spite of periodic bilateral tensions, Indonesia-Australia relations have remained surprisingly resilient. Such resilience is based on an appreciation by foreign policy elites in both states about the relationship’s utility for maintaining stability and prosperity in a transitional Indo-Pacific order.

Read the full publication by Greta Nabbs-Keller here.