- Question: Excellency, Pakistan and Indonesia have bilateral relations deeply rooted in mutual respect and support at the regional levels. Pakistan established diplomatic relations with Indonesia in 1950. Both countries celebrated 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relations in 2020. What are the main areas of bilateral significance between Pakistan and Indonesia?
Answer: Let me begin with the happy news that Indonesia-Pakistan bilateral relations have reached an important milestone by celebrating 75 years of their diplomatic ties this year. These relations were established right after the independence of Pakistan in 1947 with the establishment of an Indonesian representative office in Karachi. The strong fraternal bonds between our countries are based on mutual interests and common values supported by various mechanisms of cooperation reflecting the strong political will and determination of both sides to further extend their collaboration.
In terms of areas of bilateral significance, Indonesia attaches utmost importance to strengthening our multi-dimensional ties by supporting inclusive growth activities, which are essential to achieving sustainable, balanced, and strong economic growth. We especially focus on agenda from which both sides can benefit. In this regard, enhancing economic relations is a priority for Indonesia and we would like to increase our bilateral trade volume and encourage mutual investments. As a matter of fact, we have the basic trade mechanism such as Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) to further deepen our economic relationship. We will make every effort to expand our collaboration in culture, education, tourism, IT and science & technology. Because of joint efforts, we have also developed mechanisms at the technical level, bilateral consultation forums, defense cooperation and counter terrorism by encouraging more structured dialogue at the top level to attain mutually beneficial objectives and more prosperity for our peoples. Moreover, we are also focusing on the participation of millennial, whom we invest our efforts to build more prosperous Indonesia and Pakistan.
- Question: Excellency, you are serving as the Ambassador of Indonesia to Pakistan since 2020. What were your expectations of Pakistan at that time and how have they changes with your experience of the country? Moreover, what is your vision regarding the bilateral relations between both countries?
Answer: I would say that this my ongoing tenure in Pakistan is one of the most exciting and memorable phase of my professional career as a diplomat. I have already spent two years serving as Ambassador of Indonesia to Pakistan and my expectations about the bright future of this country have continued to increase after witnessing the economic potential, diverse culture, and talented youth of Pakistan with every passing year.
As regards my vision about bilateral relations, boosting our cooperation in mutual investment, increasing our trade volume, exploring new markets and promoting the friendly ties are among the major goals. We focus on trade and commerce since they are important catalyst for economic and social development that generate growth, commercial opportunities and broaden the productive base. I would like to utilize the presence of other helpful catalysts in our friendly ties such as religion, cultural similarities and traditions. I also wish to further activate both Indonesian diaspora and Pakistani alumni of higher education institutions in Indonesia. They have the capacity to play an important part in expanding the depth of our bilateral cooperation and to make significant contributions to society and economy. Considering Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to modernize the infrastructure, transportation and logistics and to become regional hub of trade activities with its flagship CPEC project, I believe there are many promising and potential areas of mutual cooperation. We can work together on many fields such as energy, transport, agro-industry, technology exchange and education together with economy. Joint ventures and new initiatives in this regard would make our relationship stronger, dynamic and more comprehensive with the assistance of friends and partners on both sides.
- Question: Excellency, bilateral trade between the two countries reached a record high of US$3,9 billion in 2021 – showing a 54 percent increase as compared to 2020. When the total trade stood at US$2,5 billion. What can be done to further boost the trade ties between both countries? And what forums are available to connect the business communities of both countries?
Answer: Thanks for asking such an important question. Pakistan continues to be a very important trading partner for Indonesia. It is encouraging to see bilateral trade between the two countries continue to grow.
One of the efforts to maximize the increase in bilateral trade cooperation is through mutual visits by delegations from each country, both at the government and business levels. Mutual visits by delegations from each country, including the Government and corporate levels, are one of the attempts to optimize the increase in bilateral trade. Mutual visits to Trade Expos will allow entrepreneurs to engage with prospective new trade partners with the objective to explore more trade, and two-way investment through business-to-business matching. Both sides have potential to increase trade of goods by exploring complimentarity products. For instance, Indonesia export more on high quality yarn/staple fibre to Pakistan and import hight quality textile from Pakistan. In this regards, the end product will be high quality and both countries will get benefit by the system. Another avenue which we are working now is to upgrade the existing bilateral PTA of 2013 into Indonesia-Pakistan Trade in Good Agreement (IP-TIGA) so that the two countries could expand and diversify our traded goods. In this regard, we seek also inputs from business communities of respective country.
- Question: Excellency, hence the negotiations between both sides regarding the updating of PTA to FTA are ongoing since 2019. What have been the main hurdles in this context and what prospects can be seen in this regard?
Answer: Indonesia and Pakistan continue to work together to tap immense trade potentials. Both sides shown eagerness to increase trades through trade promotional activities and business matching. We are also making identification on area of industries where the complementarity exists so we can diversify export and import products. IP-PTA has provided market access for 565 products from the two countries, with 252 products (123 with zero tariffs) to Pakistan and 313 products (83 with zero tariffs) to Indonesia which has recorded an increase in the value of trade between the two countries since the agreement was enforced in 2013. Simultaneously, we exchange notes with the objective to facilitate conclusion of the Indonesia-Pakistan Trade in Goods Agreement (IP-TiGA).
It is encouraging to see bilateral trade between the two countries continue to grow and Indonesia has commitment to address the concern of Pakistan to narrow trade gap. We simultaneously work to reduce more trade barriers that could hinder trade between the two countries. We are seeing a lot of potential and untapped products from Pakistan can be exported to Indonesia, and by upgrading the IP-TPA into IP-Trade in Goods Agreement (TIGA) we believe it could further promote increase trade and better access to each other market. To this end, the Embassy has been collaborating closely with Pakistan’s Chambers of Commerce and Trade Associations to encourage them to explore areas of potential such as agro-industry, pharmaceuticals, and information technology.
- Question: Excellency, in your view what initiatives can be taken to boost people to people contacts between Indonesia and Pakistan?
Answer: I must say that strengthening of people-to-people contacts are vital and better cultural connectivity is in the interest of both sides. Such strong contacts promote good will, friendship and bridge the gaps. Without developing people- to-people contacts, the efforts in other areas of interest rarely yield positive results. Considering the importance of this element, we are focusing cultural & academic linkages, discovering shared values and cultural similarities, traditional arts and sports attracting the people to know more about each other. Historically, our two nations also remained part of the great Buddhist and Hindhu civilizations and later their population gradually converted to Islam. It is important therefore, that we should constantly nurture these socio-cultural bonds, which are greatly valued by our peoples.
Exchange programs on education sectors and scholarships programs will certainly help to cement cultural bridges between citizens of our two brotherly countries. Tourism is another attractive area of cooperation with big potential that provide opportunity to people of various cultures to meet and understand each other. Therefore, the Embassy is doing all possible efforts to promote and expand connectivity among the two peoples.
- Question: Excellency, the Embassy of Indonesia in Pakistan conducted a grand cultural exhibition at Lok Virsa in July 2022. What was the thought behind it and what was the response and outcome of the activity?
Answer: The grand cultural exhibition that you mentioned titled “A Night at Lok Virsa Museum: The Confluence of Civilizations between Indonesia and Pakistan” was about depicting similarities between the cultures of Indonesia and Pakistan. The exhibition was coincided with the 77th anniversary of Indonesia’s independence and also highlighted the celebrations of diamond jubilee of cordial relations between Indonesia and Pakistan. The idea behind organizing the exhibition was to offer a fresh perspective and shed light on inter-regional connectivity and cross-cultural influence on both the countries. This was made possible through a selected collection of photographs, videos and artworks. Besides, the event also showcased similarities in traditions and beyond such as food and commonalities between the Indonesian Batik and the Pakistani Ajrak.
The miniature model of Borobudur Temple, the live batik printing and ‘Ajrak’ stamping were also the major attraction of the event and drew a large crowd of the visitors who appreciated the talent and creativity of the artists. I am very proud to share that the miniature model of the Borobudur temple displayed at the exhibition was made by a Pakistani craftsmen. The exhibition received overwhelming response and attracted people from every walk of life including the diplomatic corps in large numbers. The visitors were amazed at discovering similarities in the cultures of the two countries and showed their great interest in photo exhibition and the diverse range of vibrant and traditional products while enjoying Indonesian tunes played by the Pakistani musicians. I hope that the exhibition served the purpose of introducing the similarities of cultures between the two countries and ultimately bring the people even closer together.
- Question: Excellency, around 8,000 international students study in Indonesia at Universities and other higher education institutions. What opportunities are available for Pakistani students in this context?
Answer: Student exchange programs have played a significant role in promoting mutual understanding and strengthening bilateral ties between Indonesia and foreign countries. Indonesia government believes that international students, either those who are still studying in Indonesia or those who have returned to their home countries serve as a bridge between their countries and Indonesia.
Indonesia and Pakistan have developed mutual cooperation in various sectors including academic exchange programs. Realizing the importance of student exchange programs the KNB Scholarship initiative of the Indonesian government is a good example and model of cooperation in the higher education sector that is playing a significant role not only in fostering inter-state relations but also in people-to-people interactions. And I am pleased to share that the Pakistani students were the largest recipients of the KNB scholarship program last year.
The success of the KNB and other Indonesian scholarship programs in Pakistan can be gauged from the students growing interest and the success stories of those satisfied students who having completed their Master or Doctoral levels programs already pursuing their professional careers back in Pakistan or in foreign countries. I am confident that that the number of students seeking quality higher education in Indonesia will continue to grow in the diverse fields of studies and the close collaboration, facilitation and dissemination of information at government to government and university to university levels will surely pave the way forward for greater academic cooperation between the two nations.
- Question: Excellency, you have visited many places in Pakistan, what is your favorite tourist spot and what makes you like it? Moreover, what is the scope of tourism in Indonesia for Pakistani citizens?
Answer: I have traveled far and wide in Pakistan and have been lucky to have visited many tourists’ attractions as well. Certainly, Pakistan is blessed with beautiful natural tourist’s attractions and the magnificent historical, religious and heritage sites of great international significance. Nathia Gali is my favorite tourist destination. I love the place because of its serenity, scenic beauty and the pleasant weather. And it is not far from the capital. No wonder, Nathia Gali’s picturesque landscape is nothing short of a paradise for those who have an eye for nature and wildlife. I think, its breathtaking forest covered hills and the colorful natural environment has the potential to be internationally recognized and needs to be preserved and protected.
Regarding the scope of tourism in Indonesia for people of Pakistan, I must say that it is definitely tremendous and huge. Indonesia with its more than 17.000 islands amazes international tourists with its abundance of tropical scenic wonders, internationally recognized heritage sites and the rich diverse culture of its people. Though it is a country of rich traditions, Indonesia is also modern. Across the archipelago, travelers can find a wide variety of urban, leisure and shopping attractions. Indonesia is internationally known to offering safe, affordable, comfortable, attractive, accessible, environmentally-friendly and world class tourist’s destinations.
Apart from tourism socio-economic aspects, I believe that the essence of tourism is also to create and deepen cultural ties across countries and improve connectivity by bringing people and nations closer. I hope that the bilateral promotion of tourism will be highly beneficial for the both countries in many ways. Through the pages of your magazine, I invite and welcome people in Pakistan to visit Indonesia the country of friendly hospitable people and experience the world class tourism opportunities that Indonesia is known for.
- Question: Excellency, in your view what role can be played by the OIC in the context of diversification and strengthening of ties between Pakistan, Indonesia and rest of the Muslim world?
Answer: I must say that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference) spans four continents and strives to be the collective voice of the Muslim world, with 57 members. The OIC, founded in 1969 and headquartered in Jeddah, seeks to represent the Muslim world in order to protect and safeguard the vital interests of Muslims while also promoting international peace, security, and harmony among global citizens and the core issue to help the Palestinian people realize their legitimate and inalienable rights. The OIC is also focus its energy to address socio-economic challenges posed by Muslim community and other global issues such as Food Security, Climate Change and Sustainability. Those are some priority areas of the OIC-2025 Program of Action. Indonesia and Pakistan – being the two largest Muslim population countries – have commitment to work closely and together with other members for the fulfilment of these noble objectives of the OIC. Likewise, the countries are committed to promote further the significant roles and contributions of women in national building process in Muslim majority countries.
- Question: Excellency, as Indonesia approaches its ASEAN Chairmanship in 2023, what would be the priorities and what are the challenges that need to be address?
Answer: Indonesia is honored to be the chair of ASEAN in 2023. We will adopt the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth” emphasizing how a stable and peaceful region of ASEAN can become an anchor for global economic growth and at the same time uphold humanity values and democracy. We are fully aware that this will not be an easy task. The economic and global politic challenges remain complex with the pandemic shows no complete receding and increasing sharp rivalry of great powers outside the region. Furthermore, ASEAN also has internal challenge to help resolve political crisis in Myanmar which closely related to democracy and humanitarian situation. As Chair of ASEAN 2023, Indonesia is set to contribute to build a stronger ASEAN, be capable of facing increasingly complex future challenges, and be able to protect the region from external shocks, and be able to maintain ASEAN independence amid of great power rivalry.
- Question: Excellency as the 17th G20 Heads of State and Government Summit has taken place in November 2022 in Bali. Given the global situation especially the implications of the Russia-Ukraine Crisis and the aftermath of the Covid-10 Pandemic. What are the areas in focus for the summit?
Answer: The G20 presidency is significant for Indonesia, reflecting trust and honor for the country. Yet it also brings huge responsibility and opportunity to contribute more to the global economic recovery while at the same time ensuring that no one left behind in the process. I would like to say that Indonesia leads the G20 in very challenging time and complex situation of global uncertainty and the war in Ukraine which if we fail to resolve, the world would be easily slip into another cold war. Indonesia wants therefore, the forum serves as a catalyst for an inclusive economic recovery across the world. At the same time, we must end the war in the Ukraine.
Three major agendas have been selected as key pillars to formulate the strategies to accelerate this sustainable, inclusive and strong recovery: (a) strengthening the global health architecture to better prepare the world to respond to and to cope with future health crises; (b) digital transformation by improving digital skills and digital literacy to ensure inclusive digital transformation enjoyed by all countries; and (c) energy transition to new and renewable energy by prioritizing energy security, accessibility and affordability. It is expected that G-20 summit held in Bali on 16-17 November 2022 will produce concrete deliverables to address the above challenges.
- Question: Excellency, what are your views about the culture of Pakistan and what role do your think Cultural Diplomacy can play to strengthen bilateral relations between Indonesia and Pakistan?
Answer: Pakistan is a unique and beautiful country of friendly, talented and hospitable people. Pakistan has been at the heart of the great ancient civilizations but the religious influence of Islam is the most common and predominant feature of the country. The other common feature of Pakistani culture is that they all show great respect to the foreigners.
What I have observed that the geographical and ethnic diversity is reflected in variations of people customs, food and music that makes Pakistani culture even more adorable and rich. People in Pakistan wear ‘shalwarkameez” which is yet another common feature in the entire country. Pakistan has great variety of cuisine but I noticed that Pakistan love chai and pakoras more than anything and essential part of the menu in meetings and gatherings. As a matter of fact, I have observed many striking similarities between Indonesia and Pakistan that eventually motivated me to collect and sample those affinities and influences in a book titled “Cultural Beauty & Nature’s Wonders – Captivating Images of Indonesia-Pakistan Similarities”.
Regarding next part of your question, I would like to say that the cultural diplomacy is an important tool to project a country’s soft power and promotes a positive image and reputation of the country to a global audience. In turn, it facilitates trade and, tourist arrivals and bilateral and multilateral economic cooperation contributing to the country’s economic prosperity and political stability. Indeed, socio-cultural relationships between Indonesia and Pakistan are based on the historical, cultural and religious bonds. Therefore, there is a need to pay greater emphasis on the importance of close cultural ties, and Pakistan and Indonesia could learn many great lessons from each other. The various cultural exchange programs that the Embassy organizes have been highly useful in creating awareness about the Indonesian culture, society and it values and strengthened linkages among the students, academia, Ulema, artists and professionals of the two brotherly countries at large.
- Question: Excellency, being a diplomat you have visited many parts of the world, met people from a number of cultures, along with having diverse experiences. What are some of the important lessons that you have learnt in your life?
Answer: Serving as an Indonesian Foreign Service Officer has been wonderful privilege and a tremendous responsibility. It’s been absolutely fantastic to represent my country, culture and people and be at the epicenter of building and strengthening diplomatic ties with the host countries. The best aspects have been the opportunity to serve my country, help my fellow citizens and citizens of the host country, and to experience foreign cultures at a depth that cannot be attained by merely visiting as a tourist.
Diplomats have to know the community, and since they are always moving, they have to quickly adjust to the community in which they get stationed. Diplomats meet countless amazing people that help them gain invaluable experiences and expand their horizons professionally. The diplomatic corps is mobile, and the built relationships they carry around the world as their career keeps growing. Throughout my career, I came across and fondly studied various cultures in different parts of the world and the big takeaway is that we are all very much alike, despite the superficial differences or diversity such as language, religion and culture. In my view, it is rightly said that the beauty of the world lies in its people’s diversity and the pluralism and inclusivity is the way forward.
- Question: Excellency, what message would you like to give to the people of Pakistan?
I would like to say that resilient people of Pakistan have the talent, resources and courage to overcome the emerging multiple challenges for the betterment of the country. Indonesia and Pakistan have great potential to work closely together and we continue to support our Pakistani brothers with all possible assistance to move ahead progressively. With a long history of excellent diplomatic, economic and socio-cultural ties, I am quite optimistic that we will cross several milestones of success and development with mutually beneficial cooperation in the years ahead.