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What comes to mind when reading about Indonesia? Some readers may recollect the deadly tsunami disaster in 2004 when several regions such as Aceh province were the hardest hit. Or they might remember Bali as the exotic backdrop for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2007 which represented an important milestone in the global efforts to tackle climate change. Or the news, on 30 September 2009, that Indonesia was rocked by earthquakes just off the southern coast of Sumatra where approximately 135 000 houses were severely damaged. We live in a zone of intense seismic activity known as the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ where the Indo-Australian tectonic plate is moving under the Eurasian plate. Yet another set of readers may not even know where Indonesia is.
Geographically, the landmass of Indonesia is made up of 17 508 islands spanning about 5120 km (3181 miles) from east to west along the equator, the largest archipelago country in the world. With a population of about 237 million, it is the fourth most populous country in the world—behind China, India and the USA. This strategic location imposes a substantial influence culturally, socio-politically and economically, both for Indonesians and the neighbouring countries.
The modern state of the Republic of Indonesia proclaimed its independence after three and a half centuries of Dutch colonialism on 17 August 1945. While this sounds relatively recent compared with some other nations, our history goes back many, many centuries, as demonstrated by archaeological evidence …
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