Prime Minister Tony Abbott is greeted by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on his arrival in Jakarta for an official visit. Photo: Alex EllinghausenIf there were any feelings of tension between Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Tony Abbott over boat policy, both were doing their best to hide it as they gripped hands and grinned at the Halim airforce base in Jakarta yesterday afternoon.
Mr Abbott lurched up to Mr Natalegawa for a two-handed shake, his Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also smiling behind him as she descended the steps.
The Prime Minister began his first overseas trip as Prime Minister yesterday afternoon, and the stakes could barely be higher. Mr Natalegawa has been adamant since March 2010, when Mr Abbott first announced his boat tow-back policy, that it was unacceptable, and his opposition is only growing, on the basis that it offends Indonesian sovereignty.
With that in mind, Mr Abbott’s first call on Indonesia could be interpreted as a sop to Indonesian sensitivities.
At the Heroes Cemetery in the Jakarta suburb of Kalibata, 7000 veterans of the Indonesian battle for independence from the Dutch are buried.
It’s a proud and well-kept patch of ground, with helmets placed on every grave. It’s also a well-trodden route for foreign leaders. Then Defence Minister Stephen Smith went there in April; British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012.
Each came looking to use a symbol to deepen the relationship with Indonesia; but neither confronted the hurdles that Mr Abbott has erected between himself and goal.
As he mounted the marble steps to the Merdeka (Freedom) Palace for his meeting with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Abbott’s fists were clenched.
He knows he’ll need more than a two-handed shake and a grin to get what he wants in Jakarta.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.