Strangers Next Door? Indonesia and Australia in the Asian Century.

AuthorLaksmana, Evan
PositionBook review

Strangers Next Door? Indonesia and Australia in the Asian Century. Edited by Tim Lindsey and Dave McRae. Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart Publishing, 2018. Hardcover: 548pp.

In recent years, the first overseas visit undertaken by a new Australian prime minister has been to Indonesia. Thus it was unsurprising that Scott Morrison flew to Indonesia about a week after he was sworn in as Australia's thirtieth prime minister on 24 August 2018. During the visit, the two countries upgraded their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), elevating Australia to the same level as the United States and China in Jakarta's foreign policy priorities. Both leaders also announced the conclusion of negotiations on a long-awaited bilateral free trade deal, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The CSP and CEPA follow an upswing in bilateral ties over the past year. However, seasoned observers of Indonesia-Australia relations know that warming bilateral ties should not be taken for granted. After all, it was not that long ago that both Jakarta and Canberra recalled their ambassadors: the former in 2013 over allegations that Australia was spying on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's inner circle; and the latter in 2015 over the execution of two Australians convicted of drug smuggling. Indeed, crises and ruptures have become as much a part of Australia-Indonesia relations as declarations and agreements of partnership. What explains this roller-coaster pattern?

Strangers Next Door? Indonesia and Australia in the Asian Century follows an established tradition in the literature on Indonesia-Australia relations in that it seeks to answer this question by unpacking the different elements of the relationship. Like most studies in this tradition, the book starts out with the premise that Indonesia and Australia are proximate neighbours but otherwise worlds apart: politically, culturally, economically and socially. These differences, however, are not insurmountable, though they occasionally turn into flashpoints. While efforts have been made to bridge the gaps, more needs to be done--from government policies to people-to-people ties--if both countries are to enhance security and prosperity in the "Asian century". These arguments are not novel, of course; analysts and policymakers have made them for decades. But Strangers Next Door? takes them to new heights.

Tim Lindsey and Dave McRae have compiled an impressive collection of...

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