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South Moluccas1950
Papua / West Irian1963-2006
Suharto Coup1965
East Timor 1974-1999
104'099'785 Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim majority country, with over 200,000,000 Muslims [Pakistan and India are tied for second place, each with about 180,000,000]. And Indonesia the world's second largest democracy, after India [124,972,491 votes cast in the 2014 House of Representatives election, versus 81,687,059 in the US House election in 2014]. Indonesia has the largest population in Southeast Asia and the fourth largest population in the world (behind China, India, and the United States). In 2011 it also had the world’s third-fastest growing economy. Indonesia has a 2 million sq. km. (736,000 sq. mi.) land area, and a maritime area of 7,900,000 sq. km. Of moore than 17,500 islands, 6,000 are inhabited, and 1,000 of which are permanently settled. Large islands consist of coastal plains with mountainous interiors.

Indonesia made remarkable gains in the first decade of the 21st Century. It managed a successful transition to multiparty democracy, embarked on the long journey of economic reform, and proven to be a strong partner in the fight against terrorism. It is likely that these positive trends will continue, and that Indonesia will continue to evolve as a stable democratic state with improved social cohesion. As the largest country in Southeast Asia, it will continue to play a crucial role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), while also seeking other avenues to play a constructive role more broadly in global affairs.

The armed forces shaped the political environment and provided leadership for Suharto's New Order from the time it came to power in the wake of the abortive 1965 uprising. During the early 1960s under Soekarno, Indonesia pursued a policy of “Konfrontasi” toward newly independent Malaysia, characterized by small-scale but bitter fighting against forces sent to defend Malaysian Borneo. Since the late 1960s Indonesia has had peaceful relations with its neighbors. Without a credible external threat in the region, the military historically viewed its primary mission as assuring internal security.

Military officers, especially from the army, were key advisers to Suharto and Habibie and had considerable influence on policy. Under the dual function concept ("dwifungsi"), the military asserted a continuing role in socio-political affairs. Although the military retains influence and is one of the only truly national institutions, the wide-ranging democratic reforms instituted since 1999 abolished "dwifungsi" and ended the armed forces' formal involvement in government administration. The police have been separated from the military; further reduce the military's direct role in governmental matters. Control of the military by the democratically elected government has been strengthened.

The Indonesian National Police, which had been a branch of the armed forces for many years, was formally separated from the military in April 1999, a process that was completed in July 2000. With 250,000 personnel, the police represent a much smaller portion of the population than in most nations. The police play a central role in responding to the internal threat posed by militant extremists and have seen considerable success in apprehending terrorist suspects.

Indonesia's armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, or TNI) total approximately 350,000 members, including the army, navy, marines, and air force. The army is the largest branch with about 280,000 active-duty personnel. Defense spending in the national budget accounts for 1.8% of GDP, but is supplemented by revenue from many military businesses and foundations. Military leaders have said that they wish to transform the military into a professional, external security force, providing domestic support to civilian security forces as necessary. However, given current levels of training, maintenance, and expertise the TNI would not prevail against a modern, determined, and even smaller opponent.

The military historically maintained a prominent role in the nation's political and social affairs. A significant number of cabinet members have had military backgrounds, while active duty and retired military personnel occupied a large number of seats in the parliament. Commanders of the various territorial commands played influential roles in the affairs of their respective regions. The October 2004 inauguration of the national parliament ended the military's formal political role but not its political influence.

The military withdrew from formal political office well ahead of the legislatively mandated date of 2004 and generally has remained out of politics since then. The 2003 Legislative Election law forbade civil servants, police and military personnel from campaigning on behalf of political parties and forbade police and military personnel from voting. The 2008 Legislative Election law still barred civil servants, police and military from campaigning, but does not prohibit police and military personnel from voting. The military, however, enforced a regulation which effectively banned voting by all active duty personnel (arguing that this helped ensure civilian supremacy).

With Indonesian voters demanding change, President Yudhoyono is pursuing a bold reformist agenda. President Yudhoyono is keenly aware of Indonesia's status as a role model to the Islamic world and seeks a greater international profile that accords with this status. President Yudhoyono demonstrated his statesmanship in the aftermath of the tsunami, and he opened up the previously closed Aceh Province to international assistance, particularly from the United States.

A free press and an increasingly active civil society have become important agents of change. People are debating the abuses and excesses of the Suharto years and are demanding real accountability for what happened. Citizens are demanding justice from the judicial sector. Finally, the country is going through one of the most ambitious decentralization efforts ever. That process is empowering Indonesia's farflung 33 provinces and introducing unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability into local governance.

The capacity to resolve political differences through dialogue, rather than violence, is a hallmark of a functioning democracy. Although Indonesia has experienced political violence in places like Aceh, Papua, and East Timor, President Yudhoyono led a new era in Indonesia, which promised to separate Indonesia from its repressive past. The Yudhoyono government conducted a series of peace talks with the separatist Free Aceh Movement, known by the Indonesian acronym GAM. These talks proceeded rapidly and culminated in a peace agreement signed on 15 August 2006 in Helsinki. Like Aceh, Papua suffered from separatist conflict and serious human rights abuses. The 2001 Special Autonomy law that was designed to address political and economic grievances.

Although considerably less likely, a weak, fragmented Indonesia beset by intractable communal problems, poverty and failing state institutions, would potentially be a source of threat to US security and to Indonesia's other neighbors. An authoritarian or overly nationalistic regime in Jakarta would also create strategic risks for its neighbours. Indonesia's democratic development therefore continues to be very welcome. The evolution of democracy gives Indonesia a sound foundation for long-term stability and prosperity, and positive relationships with its neighbors.

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Page last modified: 24-11-2017 18:57:05 ZULU