Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his government appear to have deliberately sought to offend and distress Australia over the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. The bloodymindedness of the logistics of the executions, the almost casual willingness to cause offence, the dismissal of Australian concerns, the lack of interest in evidence of the most serious corruption imaginable — alleged bribery to avoid a death sentence and political interference to demand one — have all served to deepen the affront and anger of Australians.

True, Australia has done much to cause offence in Jakarta: the revelation of Rudd/Gillard-era spying on Widodo’s predecessor and his wife created a serious rupture between the countries. And the Abbott government’s determination to stop the boats at all costs produced another low point, with Australia repeatedly infringing Indonesian sovereignty.

But the treatment of Chan and Sukumaran and their families, and the offhand dismissiveness of Widodo and his colleagues towards Australian concerns, appears a determined effort to repay such offence in spades, with two lives readily sacrificed along the way.

Foreign policy realists insist Australia should keep its retaliation to a minimum and understand that it must live with Indonesia. But the Widodo government’s behaviour on this matter suggests that it is unlikely to engender any improvement in relations at the moment. For reasons unclear, Jakarta appears intent on sending relations with Australia to their lowest point since the East Timor intervention.

Australia should not be in any hurry to try to improve those relations. Such efforts, at this point, are likely to be wasted.

Peter Fray

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