TEHRAN -- Indonesian Ambassador to Tehran Dian Wirengjurit has said Iran is a scientifically developed country in terms of infrastructure, especially in the water, energy, transport, and nanotechnology sectors, and Indonesia requires Iranian expertise and experience in these areas.
Ambassador Wirengjurit made the remarks in an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times on August 14, three days ahead of the 69th anniversary of the independence of Indonesia.
August 17, 1945 is the most important historical day for all Indonesian people, when President Sukarno proclaimed the independence of Indonesia. After being under Dutch colonialism for more than three and a half centuries and Japanese colonialism for three and a half years, the people of Indonesia finally achieved their aspiration to become an independent nation.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: Let’s begin with the new government of Indonesia. Do you think it can work out for Indonesia? And what kind of relations will it have with Iran?
A: Thank you very much. I always say anywhere, on any occasion in general, Iran and Indonesia have a lot of similarities… When the new government of Iran under the presidency of Mr. Rouhani took over the administration, many people in the world perceived Iran as entering a new beginning. They perceived Iran with a more positive, more constructive view. This is very good.
Indonesia has also had two elections, parliamentary and presidential. These two elections have been successfully carried out, particularly the parliamentary election, because technically we had no problem. But regarding the presidential election, yes, officially we have to wait until the (Constitutional) Court decision, which is supposed to be made later this month, and if the court confirms the winner of the Indonesian election… is (presidential) candidate Jokowi (Joko Widodo) and (vice presidential candidate) Jusuf Kalla.
Many people in the world also perceive that Indonesia is also entering a new beginning, a new phase because there is a lot of optimism, a lot of positive views about the new government of Indonesia. This government will be inaugurated in October. We the people of Indonesia also have the same feeling because the new government and President Jokowi -- if he is confirmed -- will bring a new image of Indonesia, because the new president, the president himself, is coming from real, humble beginnings to become president. He is of the people… You know Indonesia consists of many islands and different ethnic groups, and even those ethnic groups recognize this person, because he is the person who we hope can bring unity, can bridge the gap between one community and the other community, among the believers of different religions and among the believers of different political perspectives and speakers of different languages. So, like Iran, we are hoping we will have a new and much better government.
Considering relations with Iran, many countries in the world perceived Indonesia as close to one side. Because our policy is a non-aligned policy, they perceive Indonesia as only focused on one group of countries and disregarding the potential of other groups, for example developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In the area of foreign policy, I believe the new government will balance this. Our attention to the West will be the same as our attention to developing countries in general. We will make them both our strategic friends. We will try to embrace all countries as our partners.
In this regard, Iran has always had a very special place for Indonesia… Muslim brothers of course. But in the past, we did not explore this potential enough to put it into concrete action. So between Indonesia and Iran we have missed the opportunity to have closer relations which can benefit the two countries. Nobody disputes that Iran has a very huge potential in oil and gas. We need your oil and gas. Iran has a very great potential in the petrochemical industry. We need your petrochemical products, including fertilizers, for example.
I have been here in Iran for two and a half years. I have noticed and experienced that you have a very high advanced technology in agriculture. Iran has managed to turn the desert into agricultural land. We can learn about this. Indonesia is basically an agricultural country, but now we import most of our commodities: rice, onions, etc. We import technology. We need your help, your technology, your fertilizers to be able to become self-sufficient in rice. We need you. You have very high technology. We need nuclear technology, nanotechnology. We need these technologies for agriculture, for medicine.
You also have very large infrastructure in terms of electricity, water, roads, gas, and railways. We need to develop our infrastructure. We need to develop our potential in order to enable us to have electricity like Iran. We need your power plants because Indonesia is comprised of thousand of islands. We don’t need big power plants. We need micro power plants. And you have those technologies. We have been using this in one area in Indonesia. In Sumatra. Iran’s MAPNA company has successfully overhauled our micro power plants. Now in Sumatra, two power plants are using MAPNA technology. We need this technology, not only in Sumatra but also in other regions and islands. Can you imagine how much benefit we can get if we are able to cooperate closely in terms of power plants? Can you imagine if we had a railway from one end of the island of Sumatra to the other using your technology of railways? (There is a) very big potential.
The new government of Indonesia, I believe, will bring more optimism, a more positive attitude, a more constructive approach toward Iran. I believe the new government will seriously look into Iran as a potential partner, as a brotherly-sisterly country. I have been here for two and a half years. I have noticed that it is difficult… to change the perception and the mindset of Indonesian people, including government officials, business people, and academicians. They do not look at Iran in a comprehensive way. They do not have enough understanding about the real Iran… I have met the vice-president-elect, Mr. Jusuf Kalla… He is a very open-minded person… For us, the most important thing is how both sides can benefit from our relations. You know, in the past, our relations with other countries were always based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, equality, and cooperation. In the past, we didn’t get what we expected of mutual respect because many countries tried to see the complete Indonesia like separatism. With Iran, we don’t have such issues, because Iran has always recognized our unitary state. In the past, the mutual benefit aspect of the bilateral relations has always been dictated, because many countries tried to impose their values, their norms in their relations with Indonesia. They even imposed these conditions. With Iran, I believe, we don’t have that problem.
Iran has always recognized us as a true partner. That’s why the new government will enjoy what we mean by mutual benefit, because we consider you, and you consider us, as a friend. In the past also, many countries treated us unequally because they thought they were above us. They are developed countries, we are developing countries. I believe we need to develop our confidence that we are the same. We have to be on an equal footing. Whenever you want to establish real cooperation, you have to be on an equal footing. With Iran, I believe we are on an equal footing. We are hoping to expand cooperation. The developed world says that what they mean by cooperation is trying to do whatever they can do while developing countries can only accept what they impose on them. Real cooperation is on an equal footing, based on mutual respect. With Iran, we don’t have such a problem, and the new government, I believe, will realize this expectation of the people.
Q: Let’s talk about President-elect Joko Widodo. He is famous for being an anti-corruption guy as the governor of Jakarta. Is he going to be able to clean up the corruption? A lot of people are hopeful about him in this issue. Do you think he will be able to do that?
A: The biggest problem for me, and I believe for Indonesian people, is corruption. Many governments, in the past, promised to combat this corruption. But the corruption is booming. The last government tried also. They created new laws. They established new agencies to fight corruption. It worked, but it didn’t work according to our hopes… That’s why the people want a president who has a really good record for the people… from the beginning. Jokowi is a person famous for that, and very humble, who started to combat it from the very beginning, from the bottom… He proved that he was able to make change in Solo, a small town in Indonesia that has been an example for anti-crime and prosperity in Indonesia. That’s why he was able to be elected as the governor of the capital city of Indonesia. That’s amazing. It means that people thought that what he had done in this small town can also be implemented in Jakarta, a big city which has more than ten million people.
Even in the two years he was the governor of Jakarta, people saw the changes he made, that were very big, because Jakarta basically is a small Indonesia because all religions, all ethnic groups, all professions are centered in Jakarta. I mean, within two years of his term, people have realized that this is the person that Indonesia needs. During the election, he travelled to many parts of Indonesia, including Papua. Believe it or not, the enthusiasm of the Papuan people for him is very high. They accept him to be the president, because he is the kind of character that we need. A character that can embrace all the beliefs, all the perceptions, perspectives… Yes, as a person, as an Indonesian citizen, I am optimistic also about this, the government, like I told you we are optimistic about Iran under Rouhani, inshallah.
Regarding the corruption, we cannot solve corruption in one night. It cannot be resolved overnight. It is not only the problem of Indonesia, it is the problem of most developing countries, even developed countries, even though they have, of course, a program. Considering the previous governments, for the last one, at least, we had a program for fighting corruption. And I believe the new president, the new government, will make more efforts to seriously combat corruption.
Q: One short question about Gaza and Palestine in general. Indonesia has never had relations with Israel and has supported Palestine. Will Indonesia, as the biggest Islamic country, play a bigger role in the Gaza issue and the greater Palestine issue in the future?
A: Believe me, our commitment to the people of Palestine, our commitment about the conflict in Gaza, the situation in Gaza, remains the same. Since the very beginning, Indonesia has been one of the active members of the Non-Aligned Movement and has been trying to fight for a peaceful and just solution of the Palestinian issue. But because of the distance between us, we could not be so active. But our support can be seen in different ways. Every year, for example, we train about one thousand Palestinians in different areas, in different fields, government, business, social areas, as doctors… Every time something happens in Palestine, in Gaza, in the West Bank, we have the reaction of the people in Indonesia -- many demonstrations -– very huge, in many cities, not only in Jakarta. Because the suffering of the Palestinians is also, for them, the suffering of us, of any Muslim people. Even some Indonesians have been fighting together with them in Gaza, in Palestine.
But again the government, with Iran, like the meeting in Tehran, has tried to tell the world that we need to stop these atrocities in Gaza. It is what we can do at the international level, in international forums. But in real terms, we participate in educating and training Palestinians from Gaza.
With the establishment of the new government, we are optimistic also about our foreign policy. Our Independence Day inspired independence days in many Asian and African countries. That’s why we established the Non-Aligned Movement… I also hope there will be more independence in foreign policy. And… I hope it will bring about a more fruitful and close relationship with Iran. I hope the commemoration of our Independence Day will mark a new beginning also in the relations between Iran and Indonesia. Because Iran and Indonesia… we are (each) having a new government elected by the people. I hope that they will also be inspired by the wishes of the people… to establish more… cooperation between them.