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Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic options in Bali

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Summary of story from TIME, July 22, 2011

Hillary Clinton arrived yesterday in Bali after a three-day tour of India which saw her forge new ties between US President Obama and India’s PM Manmohan Singh (see WVoN story).

Now Ms Clinton has been sent ahead once again, this time to Bali, to lay the groundwork for Obama’s highly-anticipated visit later this year.

But what can the predominantly Hindu population of this small Indonesian island expect from the US Secretary of State?

TIME’s Hong Kong-based correspondent, Emily Rauhala, says one issue is anxiety about China.

According to TIME, ‘while the United States was busy waging its Quixotic War on Terror, an ascendant China was making nice with its neighbors’, investing heavily in the likes of Laos, Vietnam and Burma.

Meanwhile, a series of Wikileaks cables have revealed US diplomats’ anxieties about China’s plans for friendship with Cambodia.

Could this explain Ms Clinton’s presence in Bali?

A second focus is maritime security as the battle for the South China Sea rages on with Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam each competing for their share.

According to TIME, ‘Clinton will step off the plane and into a messy regional dispute over some small slivers of maritime real estate with enormous strategic and symbolic value.’

China has attempted to ward off US intervention in this area – but will Ms Clinton be willing to play ball?

And then there are human rights.

Although Muslim-majority Indonesia is for the most part recognised as a ‘peaceful, pluralistic place’, the US has issues with Kopassus, an Indonesian special forces unit which stands accused of military violence and abuse in West Papua.

Added to this is pressure from pressure group Human Rights Watch, after a furious mob beat a group of Muslim men to death in February, as police looked on.

Human Rights Watch wants Ms Clinton to condemn the killings. Will she heed their call?

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