JAKARTA – In recent years, Indonesia has emerged as a robust democracy with a dynamic economy. Now, as the largest and most influential member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indonesia must leverage its newly acquired strength to confront the challenges facing it and its regional partners, while avoiding foreign-policy recklessness.
Indonesia has reason to be confident. Less than two decades after the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis ravaged the economy and provoked a social and political upheaval that ended President Suharto’s three-decade-long rule, Indonesia is a member of the G-20 and boasts the world’s 15th highest GDP.
Moreover, Indonesia’s mainly Muslim population is predominantly moderate, and the country has been able to overcome most of its internal security problems, including the secessionist movement in Aceh and various large-scale communal conflicts. East Timor’s independence in 2002 ended years of violent struggle.
But Indonesia still faces domestic challenges. For example, the country’s reputation as a model of Muslim moderation has recently been undermined by intolerance and violence against religious minorities. And, after eight years under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the country faces elections next year.