On September 26th, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited George Washington University in Washington, DC to discuss US foreign policy and the US-Indonesia bilateral relationship. Image: George Washington University.

Indonesia and the United States Expand Their Political and Cultural Ties

ASEAN Indonesia

On September 18th, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono embarked on his last tour abroad before stepping down in October to make the power transition to Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

While in New York during the US leg of his trip, President Yudhoyono accepted the nomination to become the next Chair of the Council of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Based in Seoul, South Korea, GGGI lends assistance to countries looking to develop in more efficient and sustainable ways, particularly when it comes to the use of natural resources. Yudhoyono’s nomination came on the heels of the UN Climate Summit, which brought leaders together from all over the world including President Obama, who issued a new executive order calling for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. During the Summit on September 23rd, the United States and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry jointly announced the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge, which will promote greater sustainability in the palm oil industry, both in Indonesia and abroad.

The United States’ role in maintaining global security was also discussed when it came to matters of global security. On September 22th, while giving a speech at the US West Point Military Academy, President Yudhoyono emphasized the need for constructive diplomatic measures in addition to the United States’ current military operations against ISIS. In Washington, DC where Yudhoyono gave a speech at George Washington University, he stated that a diplomatic approach was also needed in the United States’ Asia rebalance strategy. Citing the great strides Southeast Asian coutnries have made regarding solving disputes, President Yudhoyono hoped that the United States would make its strategy more “consistent and complimentary” with what is already in place in the region today.

While much of Washington’s attention to Indonesia tends to focus on topics of politics and security, cultural ties and exchanges have recently been numerous in the US capital. On August 10th, to celebrate 69 years of independence, the Ambassador of Indonesia to the United States opened up his residence to visitors for a day-long presentation of Indonesian culture. From September 5th to the 14th, Indonesia was one of eight Southeast Asian countries to debut films at the first ASEAN Film Festival in Washington, DC.

Most recently, the Smithsonian Freer/Sackler Gallery, which exhibits primarily Asian art, hosted a two-day celebration of various aspects of Indonesian culture in partnership with the Indonesian Embassy. On October 4th and 5th, visitors watched live dance performances, listened to music, enjoyed exquisitely carved puppets and could even try painting their own, and learned about the history of the art forms in symposiums led by Indonesian and American scholars.

Sarah Batiuk is a Program Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington, DC.