By Ambassador Mohammad Aqil Nadeem, Embassy of Pakistan, Jakarta
REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, President of Indonesia His Excellency Joko Widodo and Madam Iriana Widodo would be visiting Pakistan on 26-27 January 2018 during their South Asian tour alongwith a big business delegation. Government and people of Pakistan are anxiously waiting for the leader of the largest Muslim population country with whom Pakistan always has strong fraternal ties.
During his visit, President Widodo is expected to have extensive discussions with Pakistani leadership on issues of mutual concerns. The highlight of the visit is the address of President Jokowi to the Joint session of Parliament. His other engagements include his meetings with the President of Pakistan Mr. Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister of Pakistan Khaqan Abbasi, Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani and Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. He will also hold a tete a tete with the Prime Minster of Pakistan and later will lead delegation level talks.
A guard of honour and special fly past by JF -17, Pakistan-made fighter aircrafts will be conducted by Pakistan Air force at President’s arrival at the Prime Minister House. It is expected that the President will witness signing of three MoUs and a protocol including Energy Cooperation, Diplomatic Training, Trade Facilitation and Amendment Protocol in Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA).
A Business Forum will also be organised to provide opportunities to the businessmen of both the countries to interact and seal business deals. A few things give this visit more prominence.
President Widodo will be addressing the Joint session of Parliament of Pakistan. He will be the second Indonesian leader to have this honour after President Soekarno who addressed the Parliament in 1963. President Mamnoon Hussain and his wife who visited Jakarta in March 2016 and have very fond memories of Indonesian hospitality, will be receiving and seeing off President Widodo and Madam Iriana at the airport as a mark of friendship and respect.
A display of JF-17 showing Pakistan’s technological advances in aviation industries will further open defence industries cooperation. The MoU on energy cooperation is aimed at Pakistan’s desire to import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from Indonesia which will diversify and multiply bilateral trade. Indonesia recently agreed to provide market access to additional 20 items from Pakistan to widen scope of PTA; the same will be reflected in signing of a Protocol during the visit.
The last bilateral visit from Indonesia to Pakistan was undertaken by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) in 2005 while from Pakistan President Musharraf visited Indonesia in the year 2007. The leaders of the two countries however did meet at international forums including OIC Summit, Belt and Road Forum and D-8 Summit.
During the tenure of President Widodo bilateral political, defence and trade relations surged by leaps and bounds. Both countries held their inaugural Bilateral Consultative Forum in July 2017 and took stock of bilateral relations and international developments. Agreement on Defence Cooperative Activities was also ratified and activities under it have started rolling in.
People to people contacts have increased especially after liberal visa policy introduced by Indonesian government under President Widodo. Parliamentary relations were further strengthened and there was increased interaction between the two parliaments. Number of Indonesian students going to study in Pakistan increased manifold.
President Widodo’s visit is coming at the heel of regional and global challenges. The two countries being in top ten most populated countries and largest in Muslim world need to better coordinate with each other on international issues. The visit will also provide the opportunity to share views on recent developments in Middle East, South Asia and broader region.
Pakistan welcomes Indonesia’s desire to play a constructive role to resolve conflict in Afghanistan. With rising xenophobia and anti-muslim propaganda across the western world, Indonesia and Pakistan can present the true face of Islam which calls for peace for all humanity.
Pakistan with its growing economy offers plenty of investment opportunities for Indonesian businessmen. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a US $ 65 billion flagship project in Pakistan is now open to foreign investors as well. Indonesian companies have expertise in construction and they should not miss this opportunity.
Pakistan’s imports of coal, edible oil and LNG are increasing and Indonesia is one of the best options for these commodities. On the other hand, Pakistan is looking for new markets for its exports and interested to get benefit of PTA. Its exports to Indonesia are gradually increasing and with new tariff concessions under PTA, it is expected to grow further. Lesser the unfair protectionist measures by Indonesia, more will be trade. It will also help reduce the trade deficit for Pakistan.
With a large pool of young population there are plenty of opportunities for both countries to develop fintech and innovative technology. Both countries which are vibrant democracies and facing similar challenges should cooperate more at international stage.
Regional conflicts as well as challenges faced by Muslim Ummah need our attention and resolve to bring conflicting parties to a truce. Indonesia’s democratic credentials are respected in Pakistan. Despite the largest country in terms of population, size and economy, it always keeps regional countries alongside and builds consensus rather than bullying. This is the mature character that we also seek in our South Asian region.
Our bilateral relations go back even before independence of our two nations from colonial powers. Muhammad Ali Jinnah extended his support to President Soekarno for his struggle against Dutch and both countries established diplomatic relations soon after independence.
The bonds further cemented when Muhammad Ali Bogra, the Prime Minister of Pakistan also joined as a basic member of Asia Africa Conference established in 1955 in Bandung. President Soekarno’s commitment towards Pakistan earned him a great respect in Pakistan and many squares are named after him. Indonesia’s assistance to Pakistan in 1965 war is always revered by the Pakistani nation.
Pakistan respects Indonesia’s stance on Palestine and expects its full support to 13 million Kashmiri people who are waiting for their freedom from the occupying forces. Both the countries had extended generous support to each other in times of natural disaster such as tsunami, earth quakes, floods and epidemics.