It is the most extensive archipelago in the world, with 13,700 islands. With a population of more than 215 million, divided into 300 ethnic groups, it is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, but there are important Christian minorities in the Moluccas and Hindus in Bali (the country’s largest tourist center).
The economy is based on the exploitation of oil, tin, natural gas, in addition to the production of electronic components.
Since the 16th century, Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands, forming the Dutch East Indies. With the Japanese leaving the territory at the end of the Second World War, national liberation movements intensified.
In 1945, Ahmed Sukarno led the Indonesian independence movement; but the struggles persisted until 1949. The UN intervened in the conflict, and independence became absolute in 1954.
Ethno-religious clashes and separatist movements grew in intensity after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.
The conflicts originated in the transmigration policy, that is, a program to reduce population concentration on the island of Java, which concentrated 80% of the country’s population in 1905 and 60% in 1995. At the same time, the program to populate and develop peripheral regions generated clashes between Java migrants and the native peoples of the islands, as occurred in Irian Jaya.
In the Molucca islands, conflicts have worsened with the participation of Islamic militiamen in the “holy war” against Christians.
Aceh – the island is experiencing a movement for the creation of an independent isiamic state. The Indonesian government rejects independence, but admits to granting the region greater participation in the extraction of oil and gas, of which the province is a major producer.
War on terrorism moves to South and Southeast Asia
Since the attack in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2002, analysts have been discussing the opening of a “second front” in the US war on terrorism.
In addition to the shocking images in the tourist paradise, Bali, the explosions in the Philippines and the admission that North Korea develops nuclear weapons served to help shift the focus from Central Asia to the confluence of the Pacific with the Indian Ocean.
Analysts say the region’s societies and the state’s means of repression are far more sophisticated than in Central Asia. What can happen in the region is a tightening of repression, even in relation to movements that have nothing to do with extremism. This would be done to protect international capital flows.