50 years of diplomatic relations
Bangladeshi Ambassador to Indonesia Mohammad Mostafizur Rahman, left, shakes hands with Indonesian Foreign Ministry Director General for Asia-Pacific and Africa, Abdul Kadir Jailani, second left, during the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between Indonesia and Bangladesh in Jakarta on June 21. — ANTARA/Suwanti
AFTER Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, Indonesia, along with non-Arab Muslim countries like Malaysia, Turkey and Afghanistan, immediately recognized Bangladesh as an independent country. Immediately after independence, Bangladesh established diplomatic relations with Indonesia and the activities of Bangladesh Embassy in Jakarta and Indonesian Embassy in Dhaka started in May 1972.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world while Bangladesh is the fourth largest Muslim country. Both countries are members of the United Nations and many other multinational organizations, including the United Nations International Peacekeeping Committee, the Eight Developing Countries, the Non-Aligned Movement, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Last year, Bangladesh celebrated the golden jubilee of its independence. Likewise, diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Indonesia are currently in their 50th year. Over the past fifty years, the friendly relationship between Bangladesh and Indonesia has grown tremendously.
Every year, many Bangladeshis travel to Indonesia. In fact, Bangladeshi tourists are a big market for tourism in Indonesia. Visas on arrival are available for Bangladeshi passport holders traveling to Indonesia. What could have been a stay of up to 30 days is now extended to 60 days on a travel visa and 180 days on a business visa. Bangladeshi workers also go to work in Indonesia. The Indonesian government is also considering granting remote workers a “digital nomad visa” that will allow them to reside there tax-free as long as their income comes from abroad, for up to five years.
Indonesia and Bangladesh are also moving towards a higher level of defense cooperation. Common security concerns, strong participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions and compatible business interests in defense are among the issues that bring them together. The two nations, which belong to the Indian Ocean Rim Association, an international organization made up of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean, are becoming important trading partners. Indonesia has also expressed concern over the repatriation of Rohingyas. Bangladesh provided medicine and vaccines to Indonesia during the Covid outbreak.
In 2020, Indonesia exported $1.69 billion worth of goods to Bangladesh. The main products were palm oil, wood pulp, plastic, cotton, rubber, iron, steel, aluminum, etc. Over the past 25 years, Indonesia has increased its exports to Bangladesh by 11%. Exports, which stood at $123 million in 1995, increased to $1.69 billion in 2020. In 2020, Bangladesh exported $75.5 million to Indonesia. Exported products include garments and jute yarn. Over the past 25 years, Bangladesh has increased its exports to Indonesia by 8.63%. Exports, which amounted to $9.53 million in 1995, amounted to $75.5 million in 2020.
Apart from garments, the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh has improved a lot lately. Medicines produced in Bangladesh are slowly occupying the European and American markets. Since the quality of drugs in Bangladesh is quite good and affordable compared to those produced in Europe and America, this can create a strong market for Bangladesh in Indonesia. Bangladesh and Indonesia are also expected to benefit.
About 90% of the palm oil imported into Bangladesh comes from Indonesia and the remaining 10% from Malaysia. In other words, Bangladesh is solely dependent on Indonesia for palm oil. Indonesia has sometimes banned the export of palm oil, as it did during the pandemic. But if Bangladesh has a permanent agreement with Indonesia in this regard, Bangladesh will be able to import palm oil from Indonesia under special arrangements even if the embargo is in place.
The quality of coal in Indonesia is very good. It contains a very negligible amount of sulfur and other wastes. Bangladesh mainly imports coal from India, which contains a lot of sulfur and heavy metals, which are a threat to the environment. Thus, Bangladesh can import quality Indonesian coal if it wishes, which will at the same time play a useful role in environmental protection in addition to filling the coal shortage.
Bangladesh and Indonesia could expand their import, export and trade agreements in the coming days. As this will benefit the economic sector of both countries, the friendship between the two countries will be even stronger. The socio-economic situation of the two countries seems to be similar — although Indonesia is certainly ahead in its development process — and could explain why the two countries face the same challenges: poverty reduction, job creation, competitive business environment, increasing human capital and increasing skilled labor, building efficient infrastructure, creating a policy environment that attracts the flow of private investment and strengthening public institutions . It is to be hoped that in the coming days new horizons will open up in the socio-economic development of the two countries.
Dr. Rakib Al Hasan is a physician, author and youth worker.