Joshua Kurlantzick, blogs.cfr.org
Image from article, with caption: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence tours the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 20, 2017.
On his current visit to Indonesia, Vice President Mike Pence appears likely to play a role he is quickly becoming accustomed to—the low-key, reassuring, figure who provides continuity in U.S. foreign policy. On Thursday, Pence toured Indonesia’s largest mosque, after earlier calling the country’s moderate form of Islam “an inspiration,” and met with Indonesian religious leaders from various faiths. This is just the kind of public diplomacy that would have fit right into the regional soft power strategies of the Obama or George W. Bush administrations, and Pence is, in private, likely to offer broad reassurances of the importance of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship for Washington.
But Pence’s visit comes at a time of strain in the U.S.-Indonesia relationship, which in the post-Cold War era has never been as strong as Washington’s ties with other regional partners like Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and now Vietnam. Although the two sides have signed a series of partnerships over the past eight years, often these partnerships have been filled in with little substantial progress on reducing trade barriers, fostering greater strategic cooperation, or other critical issues. ...