Indonesia: Vengeance with a Smile

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It is quite possible that both Malik and the Sultan, working together, will be able to get Indonesia off the hook for the $450 million in payment on foreign loans coming due this year. Even that will be little more than a start, for to get the economy moving again will require an enormous package of $500 million of fresh aid, and that kind of money is not easy to find. Before dumping good money after bad, the U.S. is cautiously waiting to see whether the stabilizers mean business.

The Sultan believes that if all goes well, the economy can be stabilized within three years. That is probably overoptimistic. Foreign economists say that it will take five years at the very least to stop the printing presses and halt the rise of prices and that only then can Indonesia afford to spend any money on the industrial development it so badly needs. In the meantime, if Suharto sticks to his guns, there will inevitably be a long, lean, and politically perilous period of belt tightening. Suharto appears to mean business. At a meeting of Indonesia's Perwari Women's Club last month, he warned his admiring audience that "before this is all over, you all may be out in the streets demonstrating against me."

Chain Reaction of Peace. Whatever its problems, the very fact that Indonesia is under new management has already brought important changes in the outlook of the whole Far East. The end of its aggression against Malaysia, which had disturbed Southeast Asia for three years, was followed by a chain reaction of peace movements throughout the area. The Philippines finally decided to make friends with Malaysia, as well, and there has been much discussion about forming a regional economic community that might include Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma. In Seoul last month, foreign ministers of nine non-Communist Asian lands got together to talk about the possibility of forming a sort of Asian Common Market.

Though cordiality has returned to Indonesia's relations with the West, no one should imagine that Indonesia has become a cold-war ally. The Suharto regime is basically nationalistic, and intends to maintain strict neutrality between West and East. "It is hoped that America will not try to orbit us as an American satellite," Suharto said last week. That bit of Indonesian humor could be accepted with grace by the U.S., which, of course, has no need to try any such orbiting. Indonesia's dramatic new stance needs no additional push to make it more than what it is: the West's best news for years in Asia.

-Of the six, the other two best known are Fatmawati, whom he met in Sumatra in 1938, and Mme. Martini Suwondo, a young divorcee whom he married in 1954. Indonesians were scandalized by his marriage to Hartini, which, although legal under Islamic laws, defied the nation's custom of monogamy. They never accepted her as their First Lady, forcing Sukarno to send her to live in his summer palace at Bogor. Fatmawati, whom he has never divorced, lives quietly in a Djakarta suburb, rarely sees him.

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