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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     8 October  2011                    

Indonesia rebrands as global force

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When Indonesia's ambassador to the United States hands out his folded business card, it often raises eyebrows.

On the back is a map of the sprawling archipelago and beneath the fold is a list of fast facts: "World's third-largest (stable and multi-ethnic) democracy; Population: 230 million - fourth-largest in the world; Emerging economy of the 21st century."

Dino Patti Djalal's sales pitch for his country is one that its other top officials have been making of late as well - part of a concerted effort to rebrand Indonesia as both a key global player and an emerging market that is well worth investing in.

To push this theme, it has even launched its own international relations journal, called Strategic Review: The Indonesian Journal Of Leadership, Policy And World Affairs. Patterned after Foreign Affairs, which is published by the American Council on Foreign Relations, it is released in English each quarter.

One of its many goals is to acquaint a wider audience with the range of talent available in Indonesia, said its editor-in-chief, former foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda, in an August editorial titled An Indonesia Whose Time Has Come.

Further, officials are working with civil society and religious leaders as well as editors to share the experience that Indonesia has culled from its post-Suharto democratic transition with countries in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring.

The government-linked Institute for Peace and Democracy hosted 20 Egyptian political party and civil society leaders at a workshop in Jakarta in May. Indonesian leaders visited Cairo in July and a third session in Bali is on the cards. In addition, mass-based Muslim organization Nadhlatul Ulama hosted a group of Afghan leaders from different factions - including former president Burhanuddin Rabbani who was assassinated recently - in a bid to help arrange a peace deal in Afghanistan.

Closer to home, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told The Jakarta Post this week that the East Asia Summit to be held next month in Bali - where Russia and the US will be admitted as members - will see Indonesia propose principles for peaceful relations between East Asian countries.

Indonesia's growing confidence in seeking a wider stage has received quiet encouragement from the US, which embraced it in the G-20 and held it up as an example of a Muslim-majority democracy.

In an interview with Strategic Review, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Indonesia as "a natural leader in Southeast Asia," whose experiences could greatly assist Egypt and other countries as they democratize.

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