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Asia

Obama returns to Indonesia, his childhood home

US President Barack Obama has finally arrived in Indonesia for a visit aimed at boosting security and trade ties. But the atmosphere in the country where he spent four years of his childhood is subdued.

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive in Jakarta, Indonesia

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive in Jakarta, Indonesia

Indonesians were ecstatic when Barack Obama won the US presidential elections and looked forward to his visit enthusiastically.

However, he cancelled twice – last March because of his difficulties getting through his health reform bill and again in June because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

This time round, he has finally made it, but Indonesians on the street are not so excited any more. "I hope that more investors will come to Indonesia from the US if Obama encourages this. But I am not that optimistic any more. The Japanese are investing more here than the Americans. We're not expecting that much from his trip this time," said one man.

The official welcome

The official welcome

"Let's see. We celebrated him before and that didn't bring us much. The atmosphere is more pessimistic now. Lots of people still like him but he has fewer fans than before," another man explained.

From nostalgic trip to business as usual

Obama's trip was supposed to be an emotional trip into the past. He planned to bring his children with him and visit his old school in Jakarta but the focus of his visit has changed, becoming business as usual.

"Obama has said that Indonesia could play an important role as a bridge between the West and the Muslim world," political scientist Hariadi Wirawan pointed out.

Obama meets with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Obama meets with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

"If he really wanted that he should have taken more time to speak to our religious leaders. He should also speak in more detail about the ties between our two countries. This time, only a short visit is planned. People here think that he is less interested in Indonesia now."

Indonesians disappointed by Obama's foreign policy

Moreover, experts say Obama's foreign policy does not differ much from that of his predecessor and that a lot of people are disenchanted with the US President. As Hariadi Wirawan puts it:

"In the Middle East, the US has the same policies as before. Not much has changed. In terms of economics, the Americans don't seem to have shown much interest in the needs of the developing countries. That's how people see it here. This trip is not very important if it is all talk and there are no concrete results."

A bronze statue of young Obama at a park in Jakarta

A bronze statue of young Obama at a park in Jakarta

On Wednesday, Obama is due to tour Istiqlal mosque, the biggest in Jakarta. He will also visit the national soldiers' cemetery and lay down a wreath to mark Indonesia's Heroes' Day.

His trip will end with a public speech at the university as part of US plans to step up support for education in Indonesia.

Author: Hendra Pasuhuk
Editor: Arun Chowdhury

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