Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s article titled “Russia and Indonesia: 70 years of fruitful cooperation” published in the Indonesian national newspaper Kompas, February 2, 2020
This year, Russia and Indonesia are celebrating the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. Any significant date is always a good occasion both for summing up what has been achieved so far and for drafting plans for the future.
Our compatriots had the good fortune to discover Indonesia, a nation with a distinct identity, back in the 19th century, when Russian maritime expeditions started visiting the archipelago. In 1806, two sailing-ships, the Nadezhda and the Neva, under Ivan Krusenshtern and Yury Lisiansky, engaged in the first Russian circumnavigation of the earth, and approached the shores of Indonesia. The Ryurik, a brig with a scientific expedition led by the famous Russian navigator Otto von Kotzebue on board, did the same in 1818. Between 1883 and 1889, highly valuable oceanological experiments were carried out in the Java Sea by the corvette Vytyaz under the outstanding Russian admiral Stepan Makarov. The prominent Russian scientists and naturalists Nikolai Miklukho-Maklai, Alexander Voyeykov and Vladimir Karavayev worked on Java and other islands in the latter half of the 19th and the early 20th century.
The fact that Russia paid much attention to maintaining contacts with the Indonesians was confirmed by the establishment, in 1894, of the first Russian full-time consulate in Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies. Somewhat earlier, in 1890, the Pamyat Azova and the Vladimir Monomakh, the ships on which Crown Prince Nicholas, the future Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, made his Eastern voyage, dropped anchor in the same harbour.
After Indonesia proclaimed independence in 1945, the USSR gave the young state all-round support. On December 27, 1949, largely due to the USSR’s efforts, the UN recognised Indonesia’s sovereignty over most of the territories of the Dutch East Indies. On January 25 and February 3, 1950, both countries’ foreign ministers exchanged telegrams on the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Jakarta found Moscow to be a reliable friend that assisted its efforts to assert its statehood, develop its national economy, and strengthen its positions internationally. In 1956, President Sukarno paid his first visit to the USSR, with the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, paying a reciprocal visit to Indonesia in 1960. The transfer of western New Guinea to the Indonesian jurisdiction in 1963 was made possible with the help of the Soviet Union (the Netherlands had retained a hold on it contrary to all earlier agreements).
The USSR helped Indonesia to build the Friendship Hospital and the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, as well as transport and industrial infrastructure facilities that are in operation to this day. Great strides were made in military-technical cooperation. A case in point is a Soviet submarine in the city of Surabaja. Donated to the Indonesian Navy in 1959, she was called Pasopati and has now been transformed into a museum.
Despite the difficult period of the 1960s−1980s, Russian-Indonesian relations have stood the test of time, keeping their traditionally friendly nature. Today, Indonesia is an important partner for Russia in South-East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. A regular dialogue has been established at the top and high levels. A strong contractual and legal infrastructure has been created, based on the 2003 Declaration on the Foundations of Friendly and Partner Relations in the 21st Century. Taking our relations to the level of a strategic partnership is on the agenda. Russia and its Indonesian friends continue to work proactively on this task.
The two countries’ interparliamentary ties are making headway. Heads of the legislatures hold regular meetings, relevant friendship groups function successfully.
Created in 2002, the Russian-Indonesian Joint Commission on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, which includes eight working groups, coordinates joint collaborative efforts. Russian companies like Russian Railways and Rosneft are involved in major infrastructure projects in Indonesia. There are fine opportunities for expanded collaboration in hi-tech areas, including aircraft manufacturing and information/communications technologies. Strong potential has been created in the field of reciprocal agricultural supplies. Russia is ready to share its nuclear energy experience with its Indonesian friends. On the whole, we proceed from the assumption that it is in our common interests both to maintain the existing levels of practical cooperation and to do whatever is necessary to promote our business ties.
The high level of mutual trust creates a favourable atmosphere for the advancement of military and military-technical cooperation. Senior officers hold regular meetings; Russian troops participate in joint exercises in Indonesia. Supplies of Russian weapons and military equipment remain an important component of defence cooperation.
The two countries cooperate closely in confronting security challenges and threats. The related agencies have established a regular, productive dialogue.
Ties in the area of education, culture and sports are being strengthened. Inter-regional exchanges are bringing in a handsome payback. Russian tourists appreciate the hospitality at the Indonesian health resorts.
We set great store by the existing close contacts between the foreign ministries of Russia and Indonesia. Our foreign political collaboration is based on the identity or closeness of approaches to the main contemporary challenges. I would like to single out in particular our effective coordination at multilateral venues, primarily the UN, where Jakarta became a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2019.
Russian foreign policy prioritises the strengthening of relations with ASEAN, which reached the level of strategic partnership in 2018. I would like to use this opportunity to express gratitude to our Indonesian friends for their effectiveness in coordinating the Russia-ASEAN dialogue partnership.
We appreciate Jakarta’s interest in the Eurasian integration processes. This was reaffirmed in 2019 through the signing of the Memorandum on Cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the Government of Indonesia.
I am confident that the traditions of friendship and mutual understanding, traditions tested by long decades, create the necessary prerequisites for the further expansion and intensification of cooperation. The key to success consists in the feelings of respect and mutual sympathy, which unite the two nations and remain unchanged. We see in this a firm basis for Russian-Indonesian cooperation to reach new frontiers.