Having served in Indonesian foreign service during a long career, ZET MIRZAL ZAINUDDIN, ambassador of Indonesia to Nepal and Bangladesh, recently visited the capital. Ambassador Zet held various official positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, and also served in Tunisia, Madagascar and Surinam. At a time when Nepal and Indonesia are working to increase trade and other bilateral cooperation, Zet spoke to KESHAB POUDEL on various issues. After the opening up of the consular office and the appointment of Chandra Dhakal as an honorary consul general of Indonesia to Nepal, a lot of progress is seen in the ties between the two countries. Excerpts:
Nepal and Indonesia have a long history of establishment of relationship. How do you look at the present state?
Nepal and Indonesia have gone a long way in terms of bilateral cooperation. They have passed the 50 years mark of diplomatic relationship since 1960. The bilateral relations have grown stronger. For the last two years, after the establishment of honorary consul office in Nepal, we have seen a lot of progress in enhancing the bilateral relations. There is a progress and improvement in the bilateral cooperation between the two countries. I firmly believe that it should continue to strengthen the bilateral relations and to put emphasis in enhancing the economic engagement between Nepal and Indonesia.
What is the state of bilateral trade between Nepal and Indonesia?
The bilateral trade between the two countries has grown steadily every year. In the January-April 2011 period, the total trade value reached a new height with US$ 12,656,821.00. This is an increase of 167 percent compared to the same period in 2010 with US$ 4,736,859.00. I hope that by the end of 2011, we will be able to reach another milestone in trade between the two countries. Although the present trade is in favor of Indonesia, I would like to invite more Nepalese businessmen to come to Indonesia and establish strong business relations for the prosperity of the two countries. Indonesia has a very attractive and friendly foreign investment policy.
Is there any possibility to enhance the political level relations?
The President of Indonesia invited the Nepalese president and prime minister to join the Bali Democracy process. Nepal sent a higher level delegation to the meeting. Similarly, high level officials from Indonesia visited Nepal to attend international conferences. This should be encouraged more and more. Just a few days before resignation, Nepalese prime minister even invited our president to visit Nepal. I think it was a good start.
Some of the goods made in Indonesia are very popular in Nepal. What do you say about this?
I can see that more and more Indonesian products are coming to Nepal and similarly, Nepalese products are also going to Indonesia. In remittance, the Global Bank-Nepal is very active and the remittance from and to Indonesia is much more. It is huge. It is also supported by the same culture.
What other sectors can benefit Nepal and Indonesia?
Tourism is another sector which will benefit both our counties. Nepal and Indonesia are similarly blessed with spectacular landscape and diversity complemented by exotic cultures which hold a considerable potential for tourism in the two countries. Frankly speaking, Nepal and Indonesia actually share many cultural similarities like Hindu/Buddhist influence. Bali, the most famous tourist island in Indonesia, is famous for its picturesque nature and exotic culture with many Hindu festivals. Nepal could help Indonesia in promoting this splendor island and Indonesia could assist Nepal in developing its tourism industry promoting Himalayas.
At a time when there is no direct flight between the two countries, do you see any possibility of connecting the countries by air?
I am hopeful that the time will come soon when the airline from Nepal or Indonesia will start direct flights connecting Kathmandu and Jakarta or Kathmandu and Bali. Direct flights will increase people to people contacts and benefit the two countries.
What Nepal can learn from Indonesia?
Indonesia is now the world’s third largest democratic country. We have set an example in transparency in dealing and harmony in living together between different ethnic, religious and cultural groups. We can see our diversity as our beauty. Our unity is strength. We need to unite for the sake of the country. This is asset of Indonesia. Nepal too has so many groups living in harmony. Our country has born-in differences. For us independence of our country is dearer. For us independence is not just to get free but how to feel this independence together. We want this independence could create a peaceful world. We got our independence on 17 August 1945. We are celebrating this with our achievement as a stable, democratic and multicultural society with a strong and competitive economy from years ago and we continue to unite together in differences. Our unity is with diversity. I will praise this should be held and managed. We must not forget the fact that united we are strong and separated we are weak. We need to find out the point of compromise and harmony. If we always see point of differences, we cannot prosper.
What are the priorities of Indonesia?
Indonesia has a strong commitment for education. We believe that the future of a country is in the hands of its youth and education. We believe that education is the key to unlock the potential in our youth for the advancement of the nation.
How do you look at Nepal’s tourism sector?
Nepal too has well developed tourism infrastructure and you too have knowledge. Indonesia annually attracts 7 million tourists, against less than a million by Nepal. We have to share our knowledge. You promote the mountains and we promote the sea. We also promote the mountains. We can learn from Nepal and Nepalese can also learn from Indonesia. We need to work for mutual benefits.
Is your country supporting Nepal in education sector?
Every year Indonesia provides the Nepalese youth with scholarship programs which consist of Darmassiswa RI Scholarship for 1 year non-degree program and developing countries partnership scholarship for a 3 years’ Master’s Degree Program.