Merdeka Indonesia

By Salman Al Farisi*

17 August 2021

Indonesia considers South Africa as a strategic partner. The profound sentimental and historic links between the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago and the African continent is a special bond that is evolving in this modern epoch. In the face of the challenges of a new dynamic in social behaviour and value systems new opportunities for engagement and exchange present themselves.

Now, 76 years have passed since Indonesia attained its independence from the Dutch colonialist and the withdrawal of the Japanese imperial forces after their defeat at the end of the Second World War. After several centuries of colonial subjugation the Indonesian people have reclaimed their heritage and have built a unified nation with its 273 million people of diverse cultures and the largest number of people as followers of Islam in the world.

As the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia was forged in the Pacific Rim of Fire. This dichotomy of a fierce nature co existing side by side with the abundant idyllic natural beauty is the reason for travellers and tourists to place Indonesia high up on their bucket list of places to visit in their lifetime.

After 27 years of official and diplomatic relations with South Africa, the countries have steadily developed a greater understanding of each other as the vestiges of colonialism, world wars and apartheid wane. A new generation with a keen sense of belonging and of self-worth and value have emerged as self-reliance is growing among the nations of the south.

The book ‘Indonesia and South Africa a South South partnership in the making’, which the Indonesia Embassy published last year, contains writings and perspectives from various scholars on a variety of topics such as historical relations, contemporary issues, and ideas of future endeavors that can be explored by the two countries. The appointment of an Honorary Consul in the port city of Durban, one of the busiest ports in Africa, is a further indication of strengthening relations in particular in trade and commerce.

South Africa's accession to the 2020 ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation marked South Africa's desire to have closer cooperation with ASEAN. Indonesia and ASEAN generally, present huge opportunities for South Africa, and indeed for Africa. This is a region of some 650 million people with a GDP of USD 2,8 trillion. Established on 8 August 1967 it also celebrated 54 years as a regional bloc. The half a century of existence holds much value for other regional bodies to garner lessons learned and experiences gained in developing a successful regional organization.

August 17 marks Indonesia’s 76 year of Independence and the COVID-19 global viral pandemic has certainly brought about a new paradigm in diplomatic relations. How nations respond to overcoming this unprecedented challenge in this globally connected world will shift the direction of international relations.

*Salman Al Farisi is the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the Republic of South Africa in Pretoria, accredited to the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini and the Kingdom of Lesotho. This article is his personal view and does not necessarily reflect the policy of the Indonesian government.