Indonesia ATL: The Presidency of Try Sutrisno (1997-)

Indonesia being underestimated is not inherently a bad thing, from a geopolitical point of view. It might help the country continue to build its sphere unnoticed by other powers.
And regardless Indonesia becoming seen as more important in foreign capitals only encourages foreign powers to jockey to win it over. If any place would benefit from geopolitical neutrality it would be Indonesia.
I guess the Russian government might try harder to make the CIS more tightly integrated ITTL?
I have it in an outline that some of those nations will be more resistant towards the idea of Russia starting a new Cold War given that they just broke apart from the USSR 10 years prior.

And regardless Indonesia becoming seen as more important in foreign capitals only encourages foreign powers to jockey to win it over. If any place would benefit from geopolitical neutrality it would be Indonesia.
I would say that the strategic aim of Indonesia is not merely neutrality but also independence in its foreign policy ie. actively going after its own goals instead of merely playing both sides against the other. However, recognizing the limits of its powers, it’s attempting to get the other Southeast Asians on board so that they can move as a bloc politically.

Well that settles it. We’re going to go around the world in the next few updates and see what’s going on in the ITTL World.
The World Circa May 2001: Southeast Asia
The most positive reaction Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi got from the Sipadan Hostage rescue in September 2000 was relief. Once that washed over, the nation had to face the fact that it owed Indonesia a favor and that Badawi had put Malaysia in such a situation. Inside the cabinet, Badawi all but faced a mutiny when he told them that in exchange for saving the Sipadan hostages he had promised to join Indonesia’s Try Sutrisno in a political bloc. At last Badawi backed down on the condition that what he had promised Try would never be made public.

Badawi exited this predicament with his position weakened and his reputation for being indecisive and weak enforced. His opponents inside the government rallied around Minister of Industry and Trade Najib . As the year drew towards its final 3 months, there was talk of unseating Badawi as the Prime Minister and President of UMNO with the aim of replacing him with Najib. The removal would be on the grounds of weak leadership which in turn has led to an economy that had not fully recovered yet. It was agreed though that Badawi should be allowed to “run out of steam” on his own.

These developments were being followed from Beijing very carefully. For Najib is the son of Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Razak who had opened diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China as well as sharing a positive sentiment towards China. Najib, growing increasingly aware of Indonesia’s maneuverings in 2000, began to adopt the stance that that ASEAN member countries should implement existing commitments within ASEAN rather commit themselves to “new but uncertain ventures”. The 2000 ASEAN Unofficial Summit was considered to be a victory for Najib with news breaking out in diplomatic circles that Indonesia was not going to push the issue of Malaysia being part of its bloc.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim watched these developments. Prior to the Sipadan Hostage rescue, he had met with Indonesia’s BJ Habibie. The two are friends and BJ Habibie made mention that it would be great that support for Indonesia’s action be given by both the Malaysian Government and Opposition alike. Anwar however was not in a position to give strong support for Indonesian action when Badawi was ambivalent towards it. Privately, he told Habibie that he was behind Try’s effort to establish a Southeast Asian Bloc.

Stagnant economic figures for 2000, brought about by the fact that Malaysia’s economy had not fully recovered yet along with the perception that Malaysia lacked stability, finally made Badawi’s position untenable. In February 2001, Badawi resigned as both Prime Minister of Malaysia and President of UMNO paving the way for Najib Razak to assume both positions.

Perhaps symbolic that he was going to take a different line to Indonesia, as Try Sutrisno and Thailand’s Thaksin signed their Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, Najib was on a visit to China where he was given a very lavish welcome by the Chinese Government. When asked what he thought on the treaty, Najib quipped that “Indonesia and Thailand has Malaysia in a pincer” but added quickly that he was joking and made some comment about how he had no problem with what was going on though all those present could not help but think that there was more than a tiny bit of seriousness in what he was saying.

Singapore, seeing the Sipadan Hostage rescue, was also having its own internal debate about how to react. In a cabinet meeting at September 2000, Minister for Foreign Affairs Lee Hsien Loong said that the international environment being what it is, it is better for Singapore to align with and influence a regional power that wants to adopt an independent foreign policy and that right now that regional power is Indonesia. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong demurred that Singapore has to take into consideration how Malaysia might react.

Pushing his argument at another cabinet meeting, Goh said that Malaysia controls Singapore’s water supply, it would not do if Singapore supports Indonesia and then Malaysia is happy about it. Over on the other end of the table, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew sat back and thought that water would be an issue with Malaysia if Badawi fell from power. If that were to happen, Najib, backed by Beijing, would be as large an obstacle as possible to Indonesia forming a bloc. When Badawi’s time as Prime Minister of Malaysia came to an end, Goh and the Singaporean cabinet agreed to fast track construction of its water purification plants so that Singapore could take a more “independent stance”.

Relations between Indonesia and Singapore, however, were as good as ever. Indonesia remained a large market for Singaporean snacks, drinks, and restaurants as well as a good place to invest in while the BKPM and Perumnas were respectively conducting exchanges with the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB). The only “cause for complaint” was the fact that there is a decline in enrollment a Singaporean universities by Indonesian students a sign that that Indonesian parents were more financially confident to send their children elsewhere under than Singapore to study.

“We’re ready to do whatever he tells us to do”, said President Joseph Estrada of his stance towards Try Sutrisno. Estrada appreciated Try’s support in the campaign against Abu Sayyaf and gladly facilitated the Sipadan Hostage Rescue before turning on the might of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Estrada was not necessarily in the know of what Indonesia was intending to do though Try could be almost certain of support on the part of Estrada.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Domingo Siazon Jr. became the first official of any ASEAN country to have direct contact with the incoming US Administration, meeting with Vice President-elect George W. Bush in Washington DC in December 2000. Bush was rather brusque, telling Siazon among many other things that the incoming administration agreed with President Bill Clinton’s policy of not allowing the 10 ASEAN nations to “band together” and influence the outcome of the IMF Managing Directors’ selection process. The result of this meeting was common knowledge among Southeast Asia’s diplomatic circles by the end of 2000.

Estrada shared this concern with Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra when he visited Thailand after his visit to Indonesia. Though both led countries who traditionally had close relations with the United States, both agreed that it seemed that the new Administration will be less concerned about Southeast Asia. Both agreed that they had to drift close to the largest nation in the region.

When Indonesia and Thailand treaty signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in February 2001, Estrada publicly welcomed it. Privately though, he was quite disappointed and wished for something similar between Indonesia and the Philippines. Having not gotten on with the Malaysian Government by wishing for their defeat the last time there was an election there, China’s building of artificial islands close to Filipino waters, and the fact that Try Sutrisno had provided strong support in suppressing the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Estrada believed that the best course of action for the Philippines was to remain close with Indonesia.

Domestically, while he was known to carry on affairs with mistresses and gamble well into the night with shady characters, Estrada continued to cultivate a populist image and was able to guide the Philippines to economic recovery. As May 2001 approached, Estrada looked to utilize the successes he had gained during the presidency to increase his majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives at the mid-term elections.

Brunei Darussalam:
In the face of the Sipadan Hostage Rescue, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah began to consider his position regarding Indonesia. Whilst wanting to build good personal relations with Try Sutrisno, Bolkiah wondered how to position himself and his kingdom. Consulting with Goh Chok Tong of Singapore after the APEC Summit in November 2000, Bolkiah argued that Indonesia’s always had a leadership position in the region on account of its size. Goh explained that this unofficial arrangement has been on a “First among equals basis” but that from he gathered, and especially with the international environment being what it is, Indonesia would like to assume the leadership of a bloc that was to function as an independent force in world affairs.

In April 2001, after Indonesia had temporarily ceased to import beef from Argentina, Bolkiah allowed for Indonesia to import cattle and beef from Brunei. Try Sutrisno sent Indonesian Ambassador of ASEAN I Gede Awet Sara to convey his thanks.

For Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the bad news as Indonesia’s Ambassador to ASEAN I Gede Awet Sara introduced himself in August 2000 was that Indonesia seemed to prioritize Malaysia over Thailand in its regional activities. I Gede Awet Sara diplomatically said that President Try wanted closer relations with Malaysia who was Indonesia’s more immediate neighbor. Thaksin and Minister of Foreign Affairs Surakiart Sathirathai knew what was going on better than most and saw the Sipadan Hostage rescue as a sign that Indonesia was making its decisive bid for leadership in the region.

It was to Thaksin’s delight when Try Sutrisno sat down with him at the ASEM Summit and explained his vision. Thaksin and Surakiart put on poker faces and said they would consult with the cabinet. Even before the meeting was over however, they realized that Try was starting to give up on Malaysia and immediately began thinking how Thailand could show its usefulness to Indonesia. Back in Bangkok, Thaksin easily got the support of the cabinet.

Thaksin further built up his position at the ASEAN Unofficial Summit, agreeing with Try Sutrisno to start negotiations for a treaty of cooperation between the two countries with said negotiations to be headed by Indonesia’s Vice President JB Sumarlin and Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnhan Silpa-Archa. It took only 3 months for negotiations for a treaty to be drawn up. Try’s desire to begin constructing a bloc in Southeast Asia was matched only by Thaksin’s to establish Thailand as Indonesia’s “right hand” and this moved things along.

The other thing that moved things along was that there was a consensus within the political elite by January 2001 that what he was embarking on with Indonesia was the right thing. Opposition Leader Chuan Leekpai, the Thai Military, and the Palace either gave support to Thaksin or did not get in his way so far as his stance towards Indonesia was concerned. Thaksin’s position was bolstered by his domestic position; his expansionary economic policy was fuelling economic growth.

In February 2001, Thaksin and Try Sutrisno signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation across various areas to solidify both nations’ relationship with each other.

Much as Malaysia, Cambodia also showed skepticism at Indonesia’s increasing assertiveness in the region. Though thankful for Indonesia’s assistance in the peace process in Cambodia early in the 1990s, Prime Minister Hun Sen could not just ignore the fact that China was the first to acknowledge Hun Sen’s removal of Co-Prime Minister Norodom Ranaridh and that China had given more financial assistance than even the United States. When the Chinese Government showed that it was not so happy with Indonesia beginning to become more assertive, Hun Sen felt that he was not in a position to reject China’s sentiments.

Isolated though he and his nation was, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Than Shwe kept abreast of the developments, adopting a “wait and see” attitude. In late September 2000, Than Shwe placed General Secretary of the National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for violating travel restrictions. Amidst the international condemnation, Than Shwe noted the Indonesian Government’s official statement to this was that this was an internal matter for the Myanmar Government to settle.

In December 2000, the SPDC discussed Bush’s “rude exchange” with the Philippines’ Siazon. SPDC Secretary Khin Nyunt wondered whether or not this justified “decisively” drifting in China’s direction. Vice Chairman of the SPDC Maung Aye wondered if it was wise to become politically close given that Myanmar’s economy was already largely reliant on China’s. Khin Nyunt countered by saying that India was closer to the United States. Than Shwe kept quiet, there was one nation that should be part of Myanmar’s foreign policy calculation but wasn’t.

By the end of 2000, Laos’ economy was still stagnant though cushioned somewhat by investments coming in from Indonesia and Thailand. Laos’ concerns by the end of 2000 however were more political rather than economic. March 2001 was originally scheduled to be the month where the country would hold the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) National Congress and the National Assembly’s Congress. The former would determine who would be the party leaders and the latter to determine the state leaders.

Traditionally divided between a pro-Vietnam and a pro-China faction, the LPRP as it approached its National Congress found itself divided instead between a pro-Southeast Asia and pro-China faction, considering that Vietnam is now being drawn into China’s orbit. Pro-Southeast Asia in this case meaning those wanting Laos to have closer relations with Indonesia and Thailand. Championing the pro-Southeast Asia cause was Minister of Finance Bounnhang Vourachith while Minister of Foreign Affairs Somsavat Lengsavad, who spoke Mandarin, represented the pro-China cause.

The LPRP National Congress produced a result which pleased its factions. General Secretary Khamtai Siphandone was re-elected as General Secretary of the LPRP and ranked first in the Politburo, Choummaly Sayasone ranked third, and Bounnhang Vourachith ranked fourth. At the National Assembly conducted 2 weeks after the LPRP National Congress, Khamtai Siphandone relinquished the presidency allowing Choumally Sayasone to take over as president. Bounnhang and Somsavat contested the Prime Minister’s position but Bounnhang enjoyed more support and it was he who became the Prime Minister and Somsavat had to settle with the Deputy Prime Ministership.

At the first post-LPRP National Congress meeting and among the many other things discussed, the Politburo reaffirmed Laos’ traditional foreign policy stance of seeking balance and that with China’s strong position, balance in this regard means becoming closer with the “largest power in the Southeast Asia region”.

I Gede Awet Sara, when making his first courtesy call as Indonesia’s Ambassador to ASEAN to Hanoi, met with Premier Phan Van Kai in August 2000. When questioned about Vietnam’s foreign policy stance especially as regards China, Phan only said that the only way this can change is if the party line changed at the next Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) National Congress. Until there was a change in the party line, Vietnam would continue its drift into China’s orbit.

While it detested China, Vienam was vitriolic towards the US. General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) lectured President of the United States Bill Clinton when the latter visited Vietnam in November 2000 as part of his final overseas visits in the presidency. Back in Washington, President-elect John McCain vowed that though he bore Vietnam no ill personal will, he would not allow Le and Vietnam to get away with what was perceived as a humiliation of Clinton.

Vietnam’s relation with Russia was great. Though a downgraded version of Vietnam’s relation with the Soviet Union, Russia’s relationship with Vietnam was still close enough that Russia continued to operate in Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay. At the 2000 APEC Summit, President of Russia Yevgeny Primakov communicated to President of Vietnam Tran Duc Luong that he would like to extent Russia’s rent. But things took a turn for the worst when Primakov signed the Sino-Russian Treaty of Friendship with China in January 2001. Le Kha Phieu welcomed the treaty but not his opponents inside the party. The latter group were now of the opinion that Russia could no longer be relied upon.

Once the LPRP had completed its national congress all eyes turned to the other communist party the region. The VCP was filled with internal jockeying as it approached its 9th National Congress scheduled for April 2001. Le Kha Phieu looked for a re-election to a second term as the leader of his party however things did not look easy for him. Along with many other issues, the way Le had guided Vietnam into China’s orbit had not won him acclaim from the party. The man which Le’s opponents inside the party prepared to challenge him was Chairman of the National Assembly Nong Duc Manh. A moderate reformer, acceptable to all in the party, and speculated to be the illegitimate son of Ho Chi Minh, Nong was the ideal candidate.

While economic underperformance, corruption, and Le’s own desire to consolidate played their roles, the sight of Indonesia signing a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Thailand helped cause the desire to unseat Le Kha Phieu to go into overdrive. The General Secretary had dismissed notions that Vietnam should balance its relationship with China by also having close ties with Indonesia asking “Why should we rely on a nation that still imports its rice from us?” Nong, who organized a visit to Bangkok to coincide with Indonesia and Thailand’s treaty signing specifically so that he could meet Try Sutrisno, came to back to Hanoi even more convinced that Vietnam’s foreign policy had to change and that to that end Le Kha Phieu had to be removed.

With days until the VCP was due to start, Vice President of China Hu Jintao came for a short 1-day informal visit. Two days afterwards, Le Kha Phieu announced that the VCP 9th National Congress has been postponed indefinitely due “to unfavorable circumstances”. Nong and his supporters began to think about how best to remove Le Kha Phieu as General Secretary.
Welcome to the region that most feels the flaps of the butterfly wings.
Yooo Vietnam is in for interesting times. A coup might be in the cards with how blatant that attempt is. ASEAN as a whole really is getting tugged from all direction huh?
Methinks Japan would be an interesting partner with Indonesia in all of this...
ITTL Japan has Koichi Kato as its Prime Minister at the moment. Ideologically similar to Koizumi but foreign policy wise tends to be pro-China. Though Japanese Prime Ministers never seem to last long.

Yooo Vietnam is in for interesting times. A coup might be in the cards with how blatant that attempt is. ASEAN as a whole really is getting tugged from all direction huh?
Vietnam’s trajectory is similar to OTL. In OTL, under Le Kha Phieu, Vietnam was getting too close to China which is quite something because Vietnam doesn’t really trust and can be hostile towards China (despite the fact that they’re communists). But they decisively make the jump into ITTL world with the decision to listen to China’s request to delay the VCP National Congress (more on this in the Northeast Asia update).

I would say yes that ASEAN is getting tugged from all directions. I think in OTL late 90s ASEAN You’ve got nations that have close relationships with the US (Thailand, Philippines), lean towards China (Cambodia), and everything in between. But that’s in a non-Cold War environment. ITTL, there’s a “New Cold War” and things can become volatile.

You could say now that Thailand, Philippines, and Laos are on board with Indonesia
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ITTL Japan has Koichi Kato as its Prime Minister at the moment. Ideologically similar to Koizumi but foreign policy wise tends to be pro-China. Though Japanese Prime Ministers never seem to last long.
Would be interesting to see what impact a long-serving PM would have on this. Even leaving this aside though, Indonesia could grow in importance enough to make it necessary for even the most pro-China or pro-American PM to have them in the equation.
The World Circa May 2001: Oceania

Papua New Guinea:

Under the steady leadership of Prime Minister Mekere Morauta, Papua New Guinea began to sort itself out though this has not been necessarily reflected in the statistics. Morauta’s economic reforms, which included privatization of some of the country’s inefficient state-owned enterprises won it plaudits from the IMF.

2000 was marked by Papua New Guinea’s increasing closeness with Indonesia. On the political front, Morauta’s Government thought that the Special Region status and all that it entailed for East Timor provided a model with which Papua New Guinea could handle the separatists in its Bougainville Province. In February 2000, Indonesian Minister of Home Affairs Harsudiono Hartas visited Port Moresby and got a chance to speak in front of Morauta and the Cabinet. Harsudiono said that Indonesia’s principle in East Timor was that it was willing to concede anything but “seccession” to East Timor. On the basis of such an approach, the Morauta Government was able to strike a deal with the Bougainville Separatists in May 2000 though it was not as successful as Indonesia was with East Timor. Though the Bougainville Revolutionary Army agreed to Autonomous Region Status, the Papua New Guinea Government guaranteed that there will be a referendum for independence in 15 years.

On the economic front, 2000 saw Papua New Guinea becoming a market for Indonesian consumer goods. The most visible of these consumer products was Indomie instant noodles and Aqua mineral water. Visiting Port Moresby not long after he took office in January 2001, Indonesian Minister of Trade Anthony Salim noted the presence of these goods and told his delegation that more should be done to facilitate the presence of Indonesian consumer goods not only in Papua New Guinea but also in other developing countries.

Solomon Islands:
From 1998 onwards, Solomon Islands became a center of simmering conflict between the Guadalcanal and Malaita ethnicities. In November 1999, after a 4 month state of emergency and an accord had failed, Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa’alu requested military and police assistance to maintain order. Help was forthcoming, then-Prime Minister of Australia John Howard and newly elected Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark committed military and police personnel from each nation’s respective Defence and Police forces. Weeks into the new millennium, in January 2000, Solomon Islands found itself playing host to a mission led jointly by Australia and New Zealand with personnel contribution from other nations in the region.

The presence of the Australian and New Zealanders helped stabilize the situation. The ethnic tensions still remained but the situation never degenerated into general chaos and Ulufa’alu was able to conduct some semblance of governance over Solomon Islands. In August 2000, Ulufa’alu visited Canberra and met the new Prime Minister of Australia Peter Costello. Costello asked Ulufa’alu to begin formulating a strategy that would lead to peace in Solomon Islands and for the intervention to end. Costello did not like inheriting the intervention in Solomon Islands but found it difficult to try to find a quick exit from the situation, especially considering what was happening in Fiji…

In May 2000, there came the shocking news that Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry as well as some cabinet ministers and members of parliament were taken hostage by businessman George Speight and members of the nation’s special forces. Speight claimed to act on behalf of indigenous Fijians against Chaudhry’s multi-racial coalition, proclaimed himself prime minister, and called on President Kamisese Mara to stand aside. Mara refused to recognize this coup attempt. Acting on advice from the nation’s supreme court, Mara dismissed Chaudhry as prime minister on the grounds that the latter was incapacitated because he was taken hostage and assumed all power for himself. The advice Mara did not follow was to abrogate the constitution. When Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Frank Bainimarama and a few others pressured him to take this step, Mara refused and said that he would rather resign. This he did on 29th May 2000.

What happened next was a takeover. Bainimarama declared himself to be the Head of the Interim Military Government and abrogated the constitution. Over the next few weeks he negotiated with Speight, coming to terms with the release of Chaudhry and the other hostages in exchange for immunity from prosecution for Speight in his associates in July 2000. Bainimarama proved ruthless. Within weeks of Chaudhry’s release, Bainimarama turned around and arrested Speights and his associates. By the end of the year, he had also survived two mutinies on his regime.

Though Speight’s arrest and Chaudhry’s release was welcomed in the region, Bainimarama’s continuing hold on power raised eyebrows. He reappointed Chaudhry as prime minister but continued to hold on to his position. By the end of the year, it became clear that Bainimarama was setting up a military regime. While the Commonwealth of Nations suspended Fiji on account of Bainimarama’s takeover of the country, others welcomed his presence. In February 2001, Bainimarama hosted an Indonesian delegation led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ginandjar Kartasasmita and Commander of ABRI Wiranto. The two officials conveyed Try Sutrisno’s warm regards for Bainimarama and announced that construction on Indonesia’s Embassy Building in Suva will go ahead.

Rest of Oceania:
“1. We have a sizeable Indonesian population in New Caledonia. How can we utilize that for Indonesia’s benefit in Oceania and the Pacific Islands?

2. Who are our friends in the region that can argue for Indonesia’s territorial integrity on our behalf against those who favor Irian Jaya’s breaking apart from Indonesia?

3. How is China’s influence in this region? Our main priority is still Southeast Asia but we can’t ignore this region because it’s right next door to us and China might use it to get an advantage if we’re not careful.

Handwritten Notes by Try Sutrisno at the end of Oceania At The End of 2000 Briefing Book by the Department of Foreign Affairs

New Zealand:
In September 2000, Chairman of the Timor Leste Government-In-Exile Jose Ramos Horta arrived in New Zealand to seek asylum. The New Zealand Cabinet approved of the request and allowed Horta to reside in New Zealand. More, however, was to come. 29th November 2000 saw members of the East Timorese diaspora from around the world and sympathizers to Wellington to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Timor Leste’s Declaration of Independence. On 7th December 2000, there was a street march to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Indonesia’s Invasion of East Timor. Horta spoke at both events.

Despite protests from the Indonesian Government, Prime Minister Helen Clark maintained that it was the Government’s prerogative to allow Horta to reside in New Zealand and that it was not in the Government’s character to prevent gatherings from assembling. The only step Clark took to avoid further angering Indonesia was to avoid partaking in the events herself (Clark had been invited) on the advice of Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff. Even so, the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton at both the 29th November and 7th December events already had enough eyebrows raising at Indonesia’s Department of Foreign Affairs.

Indonesia continued to maintain its relationship with New Zealand though it became cold. Cold enough that when it looked for emergency beef imports in March 2001, it did not deign come to New Zealand for aid. Working her way diligently through her election promises in her first 12-18 months in office, Clark joked that that what was happening between New Zealand and Indonesia and her government was normally something that happened between Indonesia and Australia.

“Amidst my getting settled into the Prime Ministership and seeking to introduce my priorities, handling what I had inherited from Howard, and enjoying the 2000 Olympic Games, one issue that required my attention was Indonesia. Indonesia had gone through the crisis in 1997 and 1998, got out of it 1999, and posted a strong year in 2000 with 11.4% economic growth. The question was, what did this mean for Australia?

Minister for Defense Peter Reith argued that it meant Indonesia was Australia’s primary national security threat, something which he bluntly argued about in cabinet. Reith’s argument was based on a visit to Indonesia where he heard from Indonesian Minister of Defense and Security Wismoyo Arismunandar that Indonesia had actually underspent on defense during the Soeharto years and that the Try Government is seeking to “correct” this. Reith felt that East Timor as an issue is dead and that Australia’s main concern as far Indonesia goes was whether or not Indonesia was a threat.

Not so a threat, argued Minister for Foreign Affairs Phillip Ruddock. Ruddock said that Indonesia was “useful” rather than a threat. Ruddock argued Australia wanted the economic advantage of a good bilateral relationship with China but politically, it shared the United States’ concern that China was becoming stronger. Indonesia’s usefulness here is that if it was able to form a political bloc consisting of most if not all Southeast Asian Nation, it may well have the ability to counterbalance China. This suited Australia’s interests just fine without putting it in a position where it is openly seen to be standing up to China. The only thing Australia has to do was allow Indonesia a free hand in Southeast Asia.”

Excerpts from The Costello Memoirs

In OTL, Solomon Islands asked for Australia and New Zealand’s intervention in 1999. However, Australia and New Zealand were already involved in a place called East Timor and were reluctant to help. It was only in OTL 2003 that there was a real intervention.

Events in Fiji unfolded as in OTL but diverges with Bainimarama holding on to power instead of letting go of it.
The World Circa May 2001: Northeast Asia and South Asia
South Korea and North Korea:
The failure of President Kim Dae Jung’s Sunshine Policy hurt his standing; much so that halfway through his term, the word “lame duck” was increasingly associated with him. For a time, Kim turned his focus inwards on economic and social policy and preparing the nation to co-host the 2002 World Cup. The spring only returned to Kim’s Presidency in March 2001 when President of the United States John McCain made South Korea his first visit overseas. McCain called South Korea a “frontline” and that the United States will render assistance to it. It was an apt comment for South Korea could rightly be called the only nation in Northeast Asia that did not fall under China’s sway in 2000. Kim himself shifted his stance to a more hawkish one saying that if North Korea could not be engaged, then it has to be contained.

Across the 38th Parallel, Chairman of NDC Kim Jong Il entertained notions that it might fall to him to reunify the country. Relations with Russia had warmed up again since Yevgeny Primakov took over in Moscow and China could always be relied upon. In December 2000, returning from a visit to both Beijing and Moscow, Premier Hong Song Nam reported to Kim Jong Il that China and Russia had cautioned North Korea not to take any “rash actions” and “keep us in the loop” if it was to expect continuing aid and support from Beijing and Moscow.

6 months was not enough to turn the Japanese economy around though it was enough to take the first steps in economic policy and to show the country that the Prime Minister dared to ignore backroom party powerbrokers. On the back of this, Prime Minister Koichi Kato called an election to be held in October 2000. He increased the LDP’s seats in the House of Representatives from 233 to 242 so that it could form government on its own right without coalition partners though Kato retained the LDP’s coalition with New Komeito and the newly formed New Conservative Party. Meanwhile Yukio Hatoyama led the DPJ to 122 seats in the House of Representatives. The next 6 months proved trickier for Kato. At a time when the Japanese economy needed to increase its activity, Kato’s “Structural reform” policy involved cutting spending to cut the deficit. Then in March 2001 came news that the United States might have already gotten into a recession.

Kato genuinely feels surprised when characterized as being “pro-China” arguing instead that he was in favor of an equilateral triangle where Japan has close bilateral relationships with both the United States and China. For this reason, Kato was keen to maintain Japan’s close relationship with Indonesia, constantly assuring Indonesian officials who come to visit that continuing investment and aid in Indonesia from Japan is a guarantee. In April 2001, Kato even went as far as conveying the Indonesian Government’s request to the US Government to pressure Freeport into divesting its shares in Irian Jaya to the Indonesian Government.

James Soong assumed office as President of Taiwan in May 2000. Aside from maintaining Taiwan’s economic performance, Soong also began to work on cross-strait relations. In August 2000, Soong’s Government approved direct postal, transportation, and trade links between the Kinmen and Matsu Islands controlled by Taiwan with cities in Fujian Province just across the strait. The decision was warmly welcomed by Jiang. When Soong indicated that he would like to attend the APEC Summit in November 2000, Jiang did not object though when he met with Soong at Bandar Sri Begawan, he referred to the latter as he “Delegate from the Province of Taiwan”. Nevertheless, the photo-op between the two, which also included Chief Executive of Hong Kong Tung Chee Hwa showed what a good year 2000 was for China.

The year 2000 was a great year as far as China was concerned; the rise of a pro-China Prime Minister of Japan and a President of Taiwan that was friendly towards the mainland on top of another year of strong economic growth. 2001 looked to be another big year with the launching of an unmanned aircraft and the submitting of an application to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

President Jiang Zemin welcomed Yevgeny Primakov’s rise as President of Russia with some ambivalence. There was no question that China and Russia were natural allies if the two wanted to match against the United States as Chairman of NPC and enthusiast for an alliance with Russia Li Peng was fond of pointing out. At the same time, Jiang had established a good relationship with Bill Clinton and had hoped that this relationship would continue if Al Gore was elected president. But this was not to be, for it was John McCain who was elected. Jiang last saw Clinton as president at the 2000 APEC Summit. Though genuinely sad that Clinton was on his way out, Jiang’s mind was already on the future. Li Peng spent the end of the year in Moscow overseeing preparations for what would become the Sino-Russian Treaty of Friendship. In January 2001 with only 48 hours left until McCain’s Inauguration, Primakov visited Beijing and together, he and Jiang signed the Sino-Russian Treaty of Friendship.

It was not long before China had its first run-in with the new administration. In April 2001, a Chinese fighter jet and a US Navy signals intelligence airplane collided mid-air with each other. The Chinese pilot was declared dead (he was never found) but the US Navy personnel were detained by the Chinese authorities. The situation was only defused and the US Navy personnel released when a letter was given by the US Government to Chinese Government which may or may not be considered to be an apology depending on who’s reading it.

Another foreign policy issue which Jiang and the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party discussed in early 2001 was the region immediately next to theirs and the nation seeking to establish. For the ASEAN+3 Summit in November 2000, original plans had called for Jiang to offer a Free Trade Agreement between China and ASEAN. However, this idea was scrapped. Jiang used the summit instead to try to “intimidate” President of Indonesia Try Sutrisno in essence softly warning him not to try to challenge China. Upon return to Beijing, Jiang reported his exchange with Try and admitted that Try seemed a tough nut to crack. Li Peng advised Jiang that China had bigger concerns to worry about than Indonesia.

Then in February 2001, as news spread that Indonesia was going to sign its Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Thailand. This time Premier Zhu Rongji spoke up and with an eye to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s visit, argued that China should respect Indonesia’s supremacy in Southeast Asia and not try to encourage Malaysia’s refusal not to be part of Indonesia’s bloc. Zhu was outvoted by the consensus of the Politburo Standing Committee which was that China should use Malaysia to counter Indonesia’s bid for leadership in Southeast Asia.

In March 2001, after Laos’ LPRP National Congress and the National Assembly produced leaders which tended to adopt a more independent stance as it relate to China, discussions about Indonesia became more serious. This was especially more so when it was pointed out that General Secretary of VCP Le Kha Phieu ran the risk of being replaced at the upcoming VCP Congress by those who tended to be “Pro-Indonesian”. The Politburo Standing Committee thus agreed to intervene on a “party-to-party” basis and instruct the VCP to delay its congress to a more favorable time.

Domestically, the CCP began to look forward to the matter of succession where it was becoming noticeable that Jiang Zemin showed no intention of departing from the scene. The Central Committee Session in October 2000 passed with Jiang yet again failing to name Hu Jintao as his second in the Central Military Commission. Speaking to cadres, Jiang began to speak about the current international situation and how China will require a “Steady hand” rather than a “Fresh face” to protect its interests. While there was some internal resistance to the idea of Jiang staying on at the same time however, the cadres were not so sure about Hu Jintao. His blandness, passivity, and caution even in the face of Jiang toying with the idea of not relinquishing power made people wonder if he has what it takes to be China’s leader.

With a continually growing economy, a budget deficit at a time when military spending was required to face off against Pakistan, and the nation’s population crossing the 1 billion mark, there was already plenty in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s plate. But things were happening abroad too. In September 2000, Vajpayee visited Washington DC finding Bill Clinton very courteous as always but noticing that Clinton was desperate to lock in India as a partner against China and Russia. Then a month later, Primakov visited India and was keen that India would become Russia’s partner. After all, it was Primakov’s vision that Russia, China, and India form a triangle to counter American influence. Vajpayee did not commit to anything that would unduly limit his options. He wanted to see if this “New Cold War” was anything like the old.

This was not to say that the Indian Government was not concerned about the world around it. Pakistan was always on top of the list as far as security threats are concerned but as George Fernandes, the hawkish Minister of Defence, was wont of saying, China was “also right up there”. China’s “great year” in 2000 meant that it became more urgent for India to find a way to check China’s progress. This was where Indonesia figured into Vajpayee’s calculations.

Vajpayee had initially identified Indonesia as a potential check on China’s influence on the basis of size alone. By the end of 2000, with Indonesia’s strong economic growth and its more assertive stance on foreign policy, Vajpayee began to think that India should come to an arrangement with Indonesia as to how to relate to China. As the first months of 2001 wore on, Vajpayee wondered what could he do to help Indonesia realize its Southeast Asian Bloc.

Chief Executive of Pakistan Musharraf continues to consolidate his position. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been detained since the 1999 Coup, has been sentenced to life imprisonment though appeals by the Saudi Royal Family had caused Musharraf to send Sharif into exile there in December 2000. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has also declared Musharraf’s coup in 1999 to be legal.

Not all was well. In early February 2001, after news that the President of Indonesia had conducted mass arrests on those affiliated with Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah had arrived, Musharraf’s closest colleagues gathered to intrigue. The Pakistani Army’s officer corps had an Islamist bent and had cozy links with the nation’s Mullah. Musharraf had played this game dutifully. He had maintained the relationship and had even continued the nation’s stance of recognizing and supporting the Taliban Regime next door in Afghanistan. At the same time however, Musharraf had spent some of his formative years and had fancied himself a reformer and modernizer like Kemal Ataturk. Now this background counted against him.

“In the past he wanted to be Ataturk, in the present will he be like Try?” asked Director General of Inter-Service Intelligence Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed.

Bangladesh initially recognized secularism in its constitution at independence but successive governments and amendments had chipped away at this so that Islam had become the state religion. The news of Indonesia’s Try Sutrisno arresting Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah operatives and his strong overall stance against Islamism gave Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina energy to fight her own struggle; Hasina being the target of a foiled assassination attempt in July 2000.

2001 was to be a busy year for Bangladesh. It was due to host the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Dhaka and to this end, President of South Africa and current Chairman of NAM Thabo Mbeki visited Bangladesh in December 2000 to ensure preparations were well and god. Hasina assured Mbeki that it was.

The other big event for Bangladesh and the reason why Mbeki had visited was that Bangladesh would also be holding elections prior to the NAM Summit. Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia will be seeking to regain the prime ministership from Hasina. Already the political temperature was rising with violence abound. Zia, who had entered into a coalition with Islamists had pledged that if elected, she would hold the NAM Summit.

Rest of South Asia:
President Chandrika Kumaratunga and newly returned Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake continued the Government’s campaign against the Tamil Tigers. Starting from January 2001, selected Sri Lankan Army units will be armed by Pindad Rifles bought from Indonesia. Wickremanayake is keen to adopt a hardline approach. Head of Indonesia’s Bulog Adang Ruchiatna visited in November 2000 at the head of a delegation to learn about Sri Lanka’s tea industry.

April 2001 saw Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ginandjar Kartasasmita visit Bhutan to discuss establishing diplomatic relations.

So that’s Northeast Asia and South Asia done.

What’s happening in Northeast Asia is important for Indonesia. China’s good year in 2000 is what causes the Southeast Asian nations to think that “Hmmm, maybe there’s merit to tag along with Indonesia”. Pretty much South Korea is the only nation in the region that hasn’t been pulled into China’s orbit.

Much as Australia, India sees Indonesia as the nation that could be used to counterbalance China.

There’s two concepts seen in Pakistan and Bangladesh that will happen ITTL that I can hopefully carry out the further we go into this TL:

-The first is the concept of Try providing a model for military leaders with reformist aspirations to follow. As can be seen, elements within the Pakistani Army are worried about Musharraf trying to be like “Try”.

-The second is the concept of “What’s going to happen to Islamic extremism and Islamism in a world where the world’s largest Islamic country is not afraid to take action against them both?”
The World Circa May 2001: Central Asia and The Middle East
Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan:
After he had concluded a Treaty of Friendship with China in January 2001, next on President of Russia Yevgeny Primakov’s list of bilateral relations to be converted into an alliance were those with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. They were natural choices, to being 3 post-Soviet Republics, the three nations were already familiar with Russia and China, having been involved with them as part of the Shanghai Five, an informal gathering of nations. There was one other nation that Russia was hoping to pull into its orbit…

…but this nation was eager to keep its distance from Russia. Under President Islam Karimov’s leadership, Uzbekistan had already withdrawn from the Commonwealth of Independent States’ Collective Security Treaty in 1999. Primakov’s emergence as the next President of Russia only made Karimov more certain that Uzbekistan should adopt a more independent foreign policy.

In the meantime, Uzbekistan made a friend in an unlikely place. To fuel its textile industry and exports as well as its economic growth as a whole, Indonesia had begun increasing its imports of Uzbek cottons. Indonesia’s demand was rapacious and when Indonesian Minister of Industry Siswono Yudohusodo came to Uzbekistan in January 2001, his second visit in 6 months, Karimov was only too happy to oblige.

The Reformist victory in the February 2000 Legislative Elections energized President Mohammad Khatami and his supporters so much that when reality bit, it was all the more deflating. Though president, the Iranian political system was such, that control of the Armed Forces and the courts, in short real power, lay in the hand of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. A month after the elections, one of Khatami’s associates was shot in the face and in the coming months, reformist publications would found themselves closed down.

Khatami looked for solace in foreign affairs. The Clinton Administration had been giving signals that it was ready for rapprochement with Iran throughout its second term. Now these signals and the officials from the Department of State to bring the message to Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamal Kharazzi came hard and fast, especially after Primakov had been elected and assumed the Russian presidency. Alas, time ran out on Clinton. First it was conveyed to Khatami that President Bill Clinton had hoped the next Administration would be a Gore Administration and that he would continue what Clinton had begun. Then it was the Republicans’ John McCain who emerged victorious in the 2000 US Presidential Elections. Within days of assuming office, McCain said that he would not be continuing Clinton’s overtures to Tehran. Khatami wondered if he had to drift in the Russians and the Chinese’s direction if McCain wanted to be hostile to Iran.

Russia at the very least wanted Iran to drift in its direction. In late October 2000, Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would be withdrawing from an agreement it signed with the United States in 1995 to limit conventional weapons sale to Irian. In March 2001, Khatami visited Russia yet amidst cooperation agreements he signed in the field of energy and economics, he refrained from concluding an agreement on anything military.

Disconsolate, Khatami considered not running for re-election as president in 2001. Domestically many urged him to put his name forward. On the international front, he was dissuaded from this course of action by Prime Minister of Italy Massimo D’Alema. Speaking over the phone, D’Alema said that the world should take more notice of Iran not wanting to buy weapons from Russia. D’Alema said that Italy will help Iran pending D’Alema’s own fate at Italy’s Parliamentary Elections. In April 2001, to the cheers of his followers, Khatami declared that he will run for re-election in the Iranian Presidential Election, scheduled for June 2001.

After a 1 month interregnum in which the Constitution was amended to allow him to qualify for the presidency and a referendum in which he was the only candidate, Bashar Al-Assad was elected President of Syria in July 2000. In October 2000, Al-Assad invoked the automatic 5 year renewal period in Syria’s 1980 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. President of Russia Yevgeny Primakov readily gave commitment that the treaty was in effect.

President Saddam Hussein sent Vice President Izzat Ibrahim Al Douri to Primakov’s inauguration in August 2000 as a mark of respect for the new President of Russia. Primakov and Saddam are of course close friends.

In September 2000, Opposition Leader and Leader of the Likud Party Ariel Sharon conducted a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Sharon wanted to show Israel’s claim on the Temple Mount but ended up provoking what became known as the Intifada Al-Aqsa. Over the coming weeks there was a marked increase of violence, rioting, and killings inflicted by Israelis and Palestinians on each other through military (in the case of Israel) and other means. In Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Ehud Barak felt the pressure. Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount had been a warning shot not to concede too much in his negotiations with Chairman of PLO Yasser Arafat. At the same time he did not trust Arafat.

Still, Barak played the cards he held in his hands for all it was worth. Though his coalition was breaking down and he was at risk of losing a no-confidence motion, Barak had the authority to call an early election and the Knesset Members did not like the prospects of having to defend their seats 18 months into a 4 year term. This helped keep him in power, at least for now.

October 2000 proved that the United States was diverting its focus away from Israel and Palestine. Bill Clinton found himself in the United States’ first stoush with Primakov’s Russia, trying to drum up support for a Romanian Presidential Candidate who would not be pro-Russian, and handling a terrorist attack all at the same time. But the violence began to transition into an uneasy peace as October wore on. In the Palestinian Territories, Arafat called for calm. All things considered, negotiating with Barak was preferable to negotiating with Sharon and he did not want to give Sharon the ammunition to topple Barak.

In January 2001, Barak became Clinton’s final official visitor when he came to Washington. With days until he handed power over, Clinton was apologetic saying that he would have made another effort at bringing Barak and Arafat together were it not for the lack of time and other priorities. Meeting with President-elect John McCain, Barak came out of the meeting with the impression that while McCain was sympathetic to what Sharon was doing at the Temple Mount a few months back, he was not entirely comfortable that Sharon was a Russian speaker; this prejudice also revealing to Barak that McCain’s priorities laid elsewhere.

Still trying to keep his Government afloat, Barak felt that the best way to keep his Government going was to enter into a coalition with Likud. Sharon was interested but wanted Barak to distance himself from the negotiations at Camp David. Barak said that whatever proposal he had given to Arafat at Camp David had been American in origin. At the same time, Barak leveraged McCain’s discomfort with Sharon even as he said he wanted Sharon and the “point of view” that he represented inside the Government. Sharon got the point and thought that he might be more acceptable to Washington as part of Barak’s Government. In February 2001, Barak and Sharon agreed to form a Coalition with Sharon as Deputy Prime Minister.

Gulf States:
By the time Qatar hosted the OIC Summit in November 2000, Indonesia had established itself as a premier place to invest in. Delegations from the Department of Economics and National Development Planning, the BKPM, and not to mention President Try Sutrisno himself did great work promoting to Indonesia. Presenting to the Sultans and Emir with the prospect of owning a piece of toll road or dam or irrigation network in a faraway land, the investments of these royalties were to be directed to infrastructure development. All Gulf States were targeted for investment to ensure that there would not be dependence on one state.

The Gulf States presented Indonesia with more indication that its economy had recovered. While the number of migrant workers seeing work to be domestic workers remained constant, the number of migrant workers in other sectors like construction has lessened, owing to more availability of employment back in Indonesia.

“The operation in Yemen went ahead successfully and for a while there we were in the United States’ crosshairs. I expected a military response but I haven’t had any. I guess Clinton and McCain really do have their hands full with Russia and China to deal with us. If they still take little notice of us after we hit one of their ships, then perhaps something bigger is indeed warranted. Praise be to Allah that we are making preparations for that something bigger.

Indonesia…well, if Indonesia is not the nation with the largest Islamic population, I would not be too worried about it. But this…these arrests show that the Government of Indonesia have their eyes on us. The brother from Jemaah Islamiyah has revealed his and that Jemaah Islamiyah’s existence by rashly stabbing a Government official in broad daylight last year…this is all his fault. The brothers in Indonesia have done away with the planned bombings of churches at last Christmas Eve and now this…

Let’s not worry. If they take little notice of us here in Afghanistan where the only thing they see is civil war, there is perhaps a blessing in disguise for this. The funds that has been prepared for the brothers in Indonesia, that can now be diverted. Yes…divert them to our brothers learning to fly in the United States. Allah willing, it will be of better use to them.”

Emir of Al Qaeda Osama Bin Laden, March 2001

Iran’s path is OTL until Khatami decides not to sign any military deals with Russia.

I know I’m selling the Israel and Palestinian conflict short in terms of not conveying what’s happening but I don’t want to get too bogged down in this or any of the other countries because I still want this TL to return to Indonesia again.

Saved Osama Bin Laden for last. And yes ladies and gents, Indonesia’s vigilance and willingness to act against radicalism and terrorism ITTL means terrorists are having second thoughts about striking Indonesia. This in turn causes Bin Laden to decide to divert more resources to the “brothers” practicing their flying skills in the US.

The operation in Yemen is of course the attack on USS Cole.
No update this week I’m afraid. Just a hectic time in my real life.

Round the world-wise, I’m working on Africa at the moment. Then it’s going to be Europe and the Americas.

In terms of the main TL, the major events of the next 2 years have solidified in my head. I will try to move along at brisk pace when we get back to Try and friends.