On March 19, 2019, American officials dedicated the new US Embassy in Jakarta to its host country Indonesia. Designed in collaboration by firms from New York, Washington, DC, and Birmingham, and Alabama, the new facility stands in testament to the strength of the US-Indonesia relationship, which celebrates 70 years in 2019.
Relations between the United States and Indonesia began in 1949 following Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands. In the decades since, the relationship has grown in leaps and bounds, culminating in the upgrade of the bilateral relationship to the U.S.-Indonesia Strategic Partnership in 2015. Under this partnership the US and Indonesia have strengthened both their defense and economic development collaboration. To date, there have been numerous state visits by officials from both nations, as well as cooperation in various multilateral exercises within Southeast Asia.
Last March, the US-ASEAN Business Council welcomed 85 executives from 41 US companies seeking to do business in Indonesia to discuss trade and investment opportunities. The three-day mission included meetings with Indonesian president Joko Widodo and culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) to address areas for future collaboration.
As the country with the largest GDP in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and with infrastructure needs totaling roughly $767 billion, Indonesia is not just an important bilateral partner to the United States, but also a partner to work with on regional issues with other like-minded countries. Earlier this month, the US and Japanese embassies in Jakarta hosted a workshop in collaboration with the Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry to discuss avenues of mutual interest in several proposals centered around Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
In addition to security cooperation and sales expansion, art too finds a special place in the heart of the US-Indonesia relationship. In February, US Ambassador to Indonesia Joseph R. Donovan Jr. held a piano concert to kick of the year-long celebration of the 70th anniversary. From March 8-18, 2019, as part of these celebrations, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based band Dangdut Cowboys performed in several locations across Indonesia. Started by former Fulbrighter Andrew N. Weintraub, the band has been showcasing dangdut, a traditional form of Indonesian folk music, in combination with rock, country, blues, and reggae to introduce Americans to this unique art form.
This special relationship is also highlighted in the art on display in the new US embassy. As part of the State Department’s Art in Embassies program, the various art pieces on display in the embassy are reflections of American interpretations of Indonesia and Indonesian interpretations of the United States.
Sarah Wang is a Programs Coordinator at the East-West Center in Washington.