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Australia And Indonesia: The East Timor Conflict And The Main Themes Of Their Post War Relationship

2015 words - 8 pages

Introduction:The number one priority in Australia's foreign and security policy throughout the 1990's was to build and stabilize a partnership with Indonesia, our most important regional partner and Australia's gateway to the rest of South East Asia. This relationship between Australia and Indonesia was seriously damaged if not destroyed when Australia back flipped on its support of Indonesia and became involved in the fight for an independent East Timor. Since then Australia has pushed forward to rebuild relations with Indonesia as it is still a high priority in Australian government. This paper will go through the lead up to the events regarding the conflict over East Timor and outline the progress in rebuilding the relationship since 1999.The Australia-Indonesia relationship leading up to the East Timor Intervention:During Keating's era 1991-1996 Indonesia became the major focus of Australian Foreign policy. Regular visits were made to Indonesia by the Australian Prime Minister which bought about the Agreement on Mutual Security (A.M.S) in 1995.In 1997 a Maritime Delimitation Treaty (D.M.T) was signed between Australia and Indonesia. This era was a growing and fruitful period for the relationship of the two countries. At the same time however the differing views within Australia in regards to Indonesia's claims over East Timor put great pressure on the Australian government. The government at the time supported Indonesia in there claim for sovereignty of East Timor. From the Australian public's side there were many people holding the memories of the assistance East Timor gave to Australia during World War II along with the large number of East Timorese refugees who strongly felt the government was going against the things they claim to stand for- liberal democracy and human rights.Throughout most of the 1990's the Leading Australian parties, firstly Labour (1991-1996) then Liberal (1996-current) put the East Timorese cries second to the partnership built with Indonesia, believing the Indonesian military was capable of keeping the issue under control and even went to the extent of padding down international criticism of Indonesia that was building of the issue of East Timor.In 1998 the government began to lean away from their confidence in Indonesia's handling of the East Timor issue, this lead to the Australian Prime Minister John Howard writing a letter to President M.J. Habibie pleading for Indonesia to give East Timor growing independence whilst still being a part of Indonesia. The response from this letter was far more drastic than had been expected. Soon after receiving the letter Habibie announced he would give the East Timorese people the opportunity to vote on whether or not they wished to become more self governed but still be a part of Indonesia. This sped up the process the Australian government anticipated being played over a long period of time. In mid 1999 the ballot was processed with a huge majority (78.5%) against the...

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