The Relationship between Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are growing closer, many cooperation opportunities are wide open for the two countries.
The Indonesian Embassy to the UAE itself targets a direct investment of US$ 12 billion from the UAE until the end of 2021. The UAE government is also interested in investing in Indonesia in various sectors including infrastructure, health, telecommunications and renewable energy.
To find out more about the development of relations between Indonesia and the UAE, the team of journalists from MINA News Agency conducted an interview in the Ambassador Talks program with the Indonesian Ambassador to the UAE H.E. Husin Bagis on Saturday, 23 October 2021 virtually.
On that occasion the Ambassador, who had served as a trade attache for 14 years, revealed how the closeness between Indonesia and the UAE was then implemented in the form of cooperation in various fields.
The close relationship can also be seen where the UAE has just built a replica of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Solo, Central Java, on an area of 2.9 hectares.
Indonesia then also changed the name of the Jakarta-Cikampek (Japek) II Elevated Toll Road to the Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed.
The following are excerpts of MINA’s interview with Ambassador Husin:
MINA: How is the development of bilateral relations between Indonesia and the UAE?
Ambassador Husin: In early 2019, many Arab kings, presidents and officials came to Jakarta. But the people of Jakarta say you know why Abu Dhabi hasn’t, even though the Saudi king and others have done it several times.
In July 2019, he finally agreed to visit Indonesia. When he visited Indonesia, as far as I know, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed spent about 8 hours, half the time talking alone with President Joko Widodo.
Indeed, many meetings take up to two or three days, but the time to meet the president is usually short.
Since the plane landed at Soekarno-Hatta Airport, President Jokowi picked him up at the airport, from the airport he was not taken directly to the Bogor Palace, but first took him around in Jakarta, then the meeting in Bogor was also almost two hours.
After returning from Indonesia, he shared positive impressions of Indonesia in his country.
Then, after that a new era emerged, namely the construction of the Indonesian Embassy building. So, we told them, I want to buy land to build the Indonesian Embassy building, but instead he was given the land, the construction project for the Indonesian Embassy as well, hopefully the contents are all, currently 35 percent of the project has been completed, the target is August next year the new embassy building will be completed. That’s one of the early ones.
Second, you will see that there is also the President Joko Widodo Mosque in Abu Dhabi, moreover there is the Sheikh Zain bin Mosque in Solo which is a replica of the mosque in Abu Dhabi, only smaller in size, if in Solo it is approximately 10 thousand worshipers if. Well, this closeness continues.
Then, President Jokowi came to Abu Dhabi in January 2020. Presidemt Jokowi said that “In July you came to Jakarta, I feel this is the closest, intimate, relationship between Indonesia and countries outside Indonesia” and greets each other with the nickname “Akhi” or Brother, if Arabs call “Akhi” it is more beautiful, more friendly.
Then, I often said to Jakarta that the president’s closeness must be implemented in a real way through investment, trade, not just close.
Finally, there is the follow up. It is much has improved. Today, it is known that many projects are running in Jakarta. Even, President Jokowi will land later on November 3 in Abu Dhabi one day and November 4 in Dubai one day.
We hope that when President Jokowi on November 3 in Abu Dhabi, several agreements in the field of investment cooperation, especially with several companies in the UAE, are completed, we are currently pursuing a target of between 8 and 12 billion dollars.
The relationship between the two is very close. President Jokowi has asked many things, as far as I know, the UAE leader is hard to refuse. For example, President Jokowi said by telephone that we had the Indonesia Investment Authority (INA) which was fostered by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (AIA), at that time there was no certainty that large funds were still needed, then the UAE immediately invested US$ 10 billion.
MINA: What are the challenges of cooperation betweem Indonesia-UAE?
Ambassador Husin: Meanwhile, our challenge ahead is how we can provide them with interesting projects. The money is there, only the project must be prepared with us.
I often call SOEs, private companies, I have contacted all of them, how do you prepare interesting projects that are mutually beneficial, God willing, they will deal.
The total trade between Indonesia and the UAE since the last few years has been around US$ 3.5 billion. It means that Indonesia exports to the UAE, 1.5 billion dollars annually, while we import 2 billion dollars, a total of 3.5 billion.
Currently, a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) trade agreement is being made between the two countries and is expected to be completed early next year. The trade agreement will provide convenience in increasing the volume of trade between the two countries.
MINA: How is the development of trade relations between Indonesia and the UAE, what product exports have the potential to enter the UAE market?
Ambassador Husin: Dubai’s MSME entrepreneurs have an attractive market for exports because the country is small and has a small population, meaning that it needs a lot of imports.
All goods can be sold in Dubai if they have competitiveness, if they do not have competitiveness it is difficult.
Competitiveness is in terms of price, packaging, payment methods, transportation, packaging, everything and generally, the goods that enter Dubai are highly competitive from surrounding countries, from China, India, Turkey, everything that enters Dubai from Dubai is only exported to other Middle Eastern countries and Eastern Europe. So, competitiveness is the key word.
I often tell my friends in Indonesia how to improve competitiveness and I also tell my SME friends, in Indonesia there is LuLu Hypermarket, now there are 5, maybe in 2 months there will be 7.
We ask Lulu as a window for Indonesia’s exports for SMEs. So, SMEs can market their goods to LuLu Jakarta. If they can enter LuLu Jakarta, they can enter the world. If you haven’t entered, why haven’t you entered later at LuLu in Jakarta, given the input on your goods are not packaged well, you are too expensive and so on. So, I say this so that we can increase exports
MINA: How is the development of bilateral relations between Indonesia and the UAE in the field of education and the program for sending imams to mosques?
Ambassador Husin: There is a suggestion to send imams to mosques, isn’t it strange, usually Arabs become imams to mosques in Jakarta, especially from Medina during Ramadan. But it’s the other way around, Indonesians lead Arabs, it’s in the UAE.
The story goes like this when in the beginning I serves as the Indonesian Ambassador to the UAE in 2016-2017. Imeet the minister of religion of the UAE. I told him, I often come to mosques near my house in Abu Dhabi, but I can’t find the imams who are Indonesian, they are from Mauritania, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria, Yemen.
I said that even though there are 270 million people in Indonesia, 1 percent of them are hafidz. Many Indonesians hafidz than the UAE, they should be able to do it. With all the lobbying methods, finally agreed to do the selection in Jakarta, at that time 15 people were the first year, but because many have been here for a long time wanting to go home, and get married, today there are only 12, after there was an imam from our business, we met President Jokowi in 2020, at that time I suggested to President Jokowi to ask the UAE to send 200 priests but for 2022. Thank God, President Jokowi conveyed to the Ambassador, the UAE wanted to accept 200 priests, then submitted it to the Ministry of Religion of the Republic of Indonesia.
There was a selection of mosque imams and at the end of this month there were 26 mosque imams who would be dispatched to the UAE and after that there were 25 more, so there are two stages of approximately 50 people who will depart. If possible, before the end of next year there will be 200 priests sent.
The imam here is good, we hope that after being the imam of the mosque here for two or four years, returning to Indonesia will have experience.
As for education cooperation, a few months ago we had an MoU in the field of education cooperation, there is an action plan as well, next week there is a plan for a video conference UGM in collaboration with Khalifa University, so we will make it with UGM and IPB UI.
All of our universities are made for capacity building cooperation, student exchanges, bridging cooperation, because currently there are not many scholarships, there are scholarships for 30, 40 students from all universities in the UAE. So, we hope that with the bilateral cooperation between universities there will be many scholarships, some of these universities in the UAE have entered the world level, especially in the energy sector. (TW/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)