JAKARTA — Indonesia launched an international aid agency on Friday to strengthen its regional diplomatic relations, some of which have been strained by Jakarta’s approach to the restive Papua region.
Several Pacific nations have backed calls for investigations into allegations of violence by security forces in Indonesia’s easternmost region, although only Vanuatu has openly voiced support for independence of former Dutch colony Papua.
Jakarta, which has defended the actions of security forces in Papua, said on Friday that the new agency, with an initial budget of about 3 trillion rupiah ($212 million), can provide development aid or disaster relief to smaller countries.
“The main objective is to increase our diplomacy effort to help partnership with other developing countries to tackle issues like refugees or conflicts,” Vice-President Jusuf Kalla told a news conference after the launch.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told a news conference that Indonesia’s new Agency for International Development was a way for the G20 economy to help other countries achieve sustainable development goals.
The government made no link to Papua-related diplomacy during the fund’s launch and a foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment on any connection when asked by Reuters.
Yose Rizal Damuri, the head of the economics department at the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the fund should strengthen Indonesia’s diplomacy beyond its usual allies and expand export markets. “Including on Papua, for anything related to small countries, one of the most effective instruments is to provide aid.” — Reuters