The Unraveling of Island Asia? Governmental, Communal, and Regional Instability

By Bruce Vaughn | Go to book overview

2

Indonesia: The Regional Giant

JOHN B. HASEMAN

Indonesia is the most significant country in security affairs of the Pacific Islands. No country is more important in size, in amount of resources, in population, or in the number of potentially destabilizing factors that affect the region. This regional behemoth is the world’s fourth most populous country—no country in the Pacific comes close to its nearly 220 million population. Stretching more than 3,000 miles from west of the Malay Peninsula to its land border with Papua New Guinea on the east, Indonesia bridges the gap between mainland Asia and Australia and the South Pacific. It dominates the sea-lanes of communication between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. With a huge store of natural resources Indonesia is the largest producer of strategic commodities in the region. It is the largest economic market in the Southwest Pacific. Indonesia’s plethora of internal problems makes it the most troubling and potentially most destabilizing country in the region.

Indonesia’s 220 million people have discovered that becoming the world’s third largest democracy is not an easy process. After more than thirty years of autocratic rule under President Suharto, repressed desires for a more open political system were realized in May 1998 when the longtime strongman resigned after violent demonstrations in Jakarta and elsewhere around the huge country. The constitutional succession brought

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