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Obama's (now delayed) trip to Indonesia: Can he make it an ally?

The Obama trip to Indonesia can build a bridge to the world's largest Muslim country, countering Al Qaeda-tied militants in Southeast Asia. It can also counter China's expansion in the region.

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In this post-9/11 age, an American leader can hardly ignore a country with the highest Muslim population in the world. The global nature of militant Islam requires the US to build bridges to moderate Muslims. And Indonesia, a mainly Islamic nation of 240 million people that combats terrorists, is one place for such a bridge.

President Obama plans to fortify ties with the Southeast Asian country during an upcoming trip (the start was delayed to June so the White House can focus on healthcare legislation). It will be a homecoming of sorts. Mr. Obama spent a good part of his childhood on the country's main island of Java, a legacy that entitles him to be America's "first Pacific president."

But the visit will be mostly work. The world's third- and fourth-most populous countries want to upgrade ties, building on their close cooperation in countering Al Qaeda-linked groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah. These local militants can easily assist in suicide bombings abroad, although the ones in Indonesia have largely focused on Westerners there.

The US also has a stake in boosting Indonesia as a model of hope for Muslims living under authoritarian regimes. It is showing that Islam and democracy can coexist.


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