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Pragmatists to ease rift.

* The latest winner of our Think Tank section is Vitoria's Garry Fabian for his response to the question: "Can Indonesia-Australia ties survive the East Timor spat?"

He wrote:

Relations between Indonesia and Australia can be described as rocky at times, and the past 50 years have seen a roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

Australia's current stand on East Timor, and the leading role it is playing, has placed the greatest strains on relations since the 1975 killing of five Australian journalists in Indonesia.

While the new leadership team in Jakarta of Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Sukarnoputri are relatively unknown quantities, they appear to be political pragmatists, and economic considerations will play a large part in the direction they take.

While Wahid has been openly critical of Australia's role in East Timor in recent weeks, one suspects that this was largely for domestic consumption during the run-up to the presidential elections.

He has a record of being a moderate pragmatist, and while the path for relationships in the short run looks rocky, the chances are that they will survive the current discord in time. JUst what this time span may be will depend on how soon the Timor situation, as well as the domestic scene in Indonesia, settles down. Another factor in the equation will be the visibility, or otherwise, of Australian troops on the ground.

Trade and regional co-operation, as long as they are perceived to be in Indonesia's interest, will provide the impetus to restore relations to a more amicable level.
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Author:Fabian, Garry
Publication:Business Asia
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Oct 31, 1999
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