RIYADH: The landmark visit by King Salman to Indonesia beginning today, the first by a Saudi monarch since 1970, will usher in a new era of bilateral relations, Indonesian Ambassador Agus Maftuh Abegebriel told Arab News.
“King Salman is scheduled to tour Indonesia ... after the official visit of President Joko Widodo to the Kingdom in late 2015,” said Abegebriel.
“This historic visit is expected to mark a new level of relations between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia... in various fields and at all levels, including the government level as well as people-to-people exchange.”
He added: “Of all the fields of cooperation, I believe economic cooperation will be top of the list. This is in line with Saudi Vision 2030 and Indonesia’s priorities for economic cooperation. As members of the G20, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia have so much untapped potential in economic sectors, from trade and investments to the mining sector.”
Drafts of joint declarations, memoranda of understanding and agreements in various fields have been exchanged by the relevant ministries and institutions in both countries, including cooperation in the fields of trade, education, health, culture, information, science, technology, civil aviation, fisheries and combating transnational crimes, Abegebriel said.
“I think the fact that both governments are working as a team and hand-in-hand to make this visit a success in itself outweighs any agreement that may be signed thereof,” he added.
“I believe strategic and defense cooperation will be among the topics to be discussed... since Indonesia and Saudi Arabia signed a defense cooperation agreement in 2014, and it was discussed during the state visit of the president of the Republic of Indonesia in 2015.”
The envoy said the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose headquarters are in Riyadh and Jakarta respectively, have had relations since 1990.
There is a lot of potential in enhanced cooperation between the two regional blocs, in light of impressive growth in trade and investment between them in the past decade, he added.
“Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, being one of the key players in ASEAN and the GCC respectively, will surely take into account the potential between these two inter-governmental organizations and ways to further enhance relations,” he said.
As Indonesia sends the largest number of Haj pilgrims annually, on the increased Haj quota Abegebriel said Indonesia “conveys its highest appreciation” to King Salman “for continuous efforts in very successfully organizing the most important rituals in Islam.”
The envoy said bilateral bonds started in the 13th century, when Muslim traders and Islamic scholars from the Arab world arrived in the Indonesian archipelago.
“Take for example, the high number of Arabic words that have been immersed into the Indonesian language, or the ways of celebrating Islamic festivals. All these signify the strong bonds between the peoples of the two brotherly countries,” he added.
“I believe cultural cooperation, designed among other things to further promote people-to-people contact, is also on the table and currently being discussed by the relevant ministries of the two governments. This visit is an important showcase of how strong cultural relations have been, and will be, between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.”
King Salman decorated the Indonesian president with the prestigious King Abdul Aziz Medal when he visited the Kingdom in September 2015.
To welcome King Salman, the Indonesian government has made elaborate civil and security arrangements with the Transportation Ministry, issuing a notice to all stakeholders to facilitate the smooth arrival and stay for the monarch, who is also expected on a private family trip to the island of Bali during his tour of the archipelago.