JAKARTA, Indonesia — This nation's new president outlined policies Sunday designed to move the world's fourth most populous country more into the Asian mainstream and to establish a formal relationship with Israel.
Abdurrahman Wahid, in his first major address since national legislators elected him Wednesday, told businesspeople and diplomats on the resort island of Bali that he will soon visit China and Japan and that economically battered Indonesia cannot survive without outside help.
" 'Foreign investment' are the key words," Wahid said. Such investment has all but disappeared in the wake of Indonesia's recent civic and political instability, and the International Monetary Fund has suspended disbursements from a $43-billion rescue package because of a banking scandal.
Wahid also said that he intends to appoint to his Cabinet some members of former President Suharto's authoritarian regime. Many analysts had assumed that he would shun supporters of Suharto, whom public protests forced to resign in May 1998, in order to make a clean break with the past.
But Wahid, an able politician known for his willingness both to forgive and to forge coalitions, received a large number of votes Wednesday from members of Suharto's Golkar party, and he implied that he does not intend to cut any group out of his efforts to build "Indonesia Baru"--a New Indonesia.
"To attain the presidency, I had to make compromises," said the legally blind Muslim cleric, who cannot read documents and spoke without consulting a text. But he said that Golkar ministers, like everyone else, will be expected to follow "the government's code for honesty, frankness and economic development."
Wahid's assertion that Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, will begin an economic relationship with Israel came as no surprise. He has long advocated religious tolerance and is considered a moderate with secular views.
Several years ago, he visited Israel and stirred controversy by calling for a better understanding between Muslims and Jews.
Suharto, during 32 years in power, refused to recognize Israel and was distinctly suspicious of China. Even in the dying days of his regime, many of his supporters blamed "Communist agitators" for Indonesia's economic and political problems.
Suharto was closely aligned with the United States, which was willing to overlook his human rights abuses in order to retain clout in a country that was considered the most influential in Southeast Asia.
Wahid did not mention the United States or other Western countries in his 40-minute speech. He said he will make a quick tour of Southeast Asian nations before a regional summit in Manila next month.
Both Wahid and his populist vice president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, have said that territorial integrity and rebuilding a sense of nationalism will top their agenda.
Wahid said he will personally oversee efforts to restore order in the staunchly Muslim province of Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, where hundreds of people have been killed in battles with security forces and where thousands protested Saturday to demand a referendum on independence.
He put Megawati in charge of defusing communal violence on the eastern island of Ambon and in Irian Jaya in western New Guinea.
Although Indonesia has recognized a vote for independence in East Timor, the territory it invaded in 1975 and annexed the following year, Wahid has said he will not accept breakaway republics within Indonesia but is willing to give several troubled regions increased autonomy.