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Why the economic and political centre is moving East

David Cameron inspects an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Jakarta Photo: Reuters

If you were asked to name the four most populated countries on earth - most people would be able to suggest China, India and the United States - but I expect very few could name Indonesia as number four.

There are 248 million people here in a country spread across 17 thousand islands.

The economy is growing at an annual rate of 6 per cent. Very soon Indonesia will be among the ten biggest economies in the world.

If you wonder why the economic and political centre is moving East - this is a good place from which to assess it.

And it is against that backdrop David Cameron makes a speech today at a university in Jakarta.

David Cameron (R) walks beside Indonesia Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (L) upon his arrival at Halim Perdana Kusuma airport in Jakarta Credit: Reuters

In the country home to the world's largest Muslim population David Cameron says the democratic success in Indonesia has huge implications for Egypt, Iran and Syria.

It shows he says "how democracy can offer an alternative to the dead-end choice of dictatorship and extremism" and that "it is possible to develop a democracy and a modern economy that neither compromises people's security nor their ability to practise their religion."

It's why David Cameron used this phrase six times in his speech: “Indonesia mampu memimpin dunia” (Indonesia can lead the world).

And the Prime Minister also refers to a country in which he hopes to makes history tomorrow: Burma.

He pays tribute not only to Aung San Suu Kyi - who has led the struggle for democracy there but also to the Burmese President Thein Sein who has begun the slow process of reform.

Indonesia suffered four decades of authoritarian rule before transforming into a democracy. Burma is only just setting out on a similar path.

It is still too early to tell if it can follow Indonesia - a country about which we will soon hear much, much more. And then perhaps we may be able to name it as the fourth most populated on earth.

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