Australia and Indonesia should work together to combat terrorism by lifting people around the globe out of poverty, a former Indonesian president believes.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is visiting Canberra, also praised Australia’s acceptance of Muslims as an inspiring example to a world troubled by Islamophobia.
He believes there is a direct link between a more prosperous world and a peaceful one, and is urging Australia to promote sustainable development goals.
“Then more poor will graduate to middle class and become the owner of a dignified life,” he told a defence policy conference on Friday.
Hundreds of millions of people were trapped in insecurity, injustice and marginalisation which led to hopelessness, he said.
“In some of these areas, fertile minds can become corrupted.”
In the digital era, the world was facing a “unique new battleground” in the struggle between tolerance and hatred.
Dr Yudhoyono – who is widely recognised as instrumental in improving the Australia-Indonesia relationship – paired the two nations as models of “open and free multicultural nations”.
“I know that Muslims in Australia feel free, respected and welcome,” he said.
“And this is an inspiring example to a world troubled by Islamophobia.”
The national security of the neighbours was also interrelated, as confirmed by the 2002 Bali bombings.
However, while reflecting on the improved relationship between Jakarta and Canberra – which had been elevated far above mutual mistrust over the past decade – Dr Yudhoyono issued a subtle warning to Australian governments.
Don’t leave Indonesia out of the loop.
The then-president recalled how he’d found out the United States was planing a marine force in Darwin while being interviewed by reporters at the APEC conference in 2011.
“It was a surprise to me,” he said.
“In any situation where Australia or their allies decide to deploy larger forces, especially in the northern part of Australia … it is critical to communicate with Indonesia.”
Dr Yudhoyono – who was president from 2004 to 2014 – was invited to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute conference as the keynote speaker, something former ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley described as amazing.
“It is an extraordinary thing, that at this very Australian gathering, the most significant speech has been made by you,” Mr Beazley told the former president.
“I cannot think of any foreign interlocutor that Australia has had over the years who has understood us so well.
“All I can say is that we don’t actually deserve it but it is good that we got it.”