By H.E. Ronny Prasetyo Yuliantoro 

Commemoration of 70 years of Indonesia-Iran diplomatic relations

December 21, 2020 - 13:27

The year 2020 marks the 70 years of Indonesia-Iran diplomatic relations. The two countries have been developing cooperation in many areas including those in progress even to date. Both countries are now making the best out of these potentials /opportunities while adjusting to the most updated global situation most notably the current COVID-19 pandemic.     

The relations began in July 1950 when the then Indonesian envoy was received by the highest Iranian authority to commence diplomatic duties in Tehran. This occasion then was followed by various cooperation agreements between the two countries, including mutual working visits by both sides, until this date.    

Indonesia and Iran have always had good political relations as a strong foundation for cooperation in other sectors. The good political relations developed at bilateral, regional and international level, marked outstandingly by the visit of President Hassan Rouhani to Jakarta in 2015 followed by President Joko Widodo’s visit to Tehran in the following year. These mutual Heads of State visits led to concretizing a number of cooperation in line with both countries’ common interests.

Indonesia puts the national welfare through economic/trade activities and hence the diplomacy is prioritized mainly on trade and economy. Bearing that in mind, there are potentials/opportunities open for trade/economic ties for both countries and it should be addressed so that trade volume will improve. To further improve the above-mentioned condition while adjusting to the pandemic, cooperation in health sectors have become among the main priorities. The presidents of both countries conducted a telephone conversation in April 2020 for a further collaboration including the handling of COVID-19 pandemic, which then was followed up by meetings by relevant/technical authorities. Indonesia is always ready to develop cooperation in battling COVID-19 with any party, including Iran.      

Indonesia and Iran are now still working on further promotion of trade, investment and other related sectors. Both countries are now identifying a number of economic potentials including trade tariffs, investment, other prospects, and mutual product knowledge promotions to identify and harmonize the potentials in respective markets. Despite the challenges, a number of Iranian commodities are still in high demand, including steel, dates, pistachio, and others. 

The Omnibus Law on Job Creation was passed in November 2020. The law is aimed at simplifying more than 70 overlapping regulations, aimed at relaxing Indonesia’s complex web of business, labor, and environmental laws in an attempt to attract foreign investment, create jobs, and boost the economy. We believe that consistent implementation that follow would turn Indonesia into a more competitive and prosperous society. Thus the law opens the opportunity to create a better trade and investment environment for foreign investors.  
During 2015-2018, Indonesia-Iran trade exchanges grew 2.6 times. The value of total trade jumped from USD 237 million in 2015 to USD 715 million in 2018, but it decreased in 2019-2020. To address those challenges, both Governments are working on solutions for financial settlement issues, barriers reduction and communications improvement in the banking sectors including the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) negotiation. At technical level, both countries from the relevant stakeholders, have been in contact and talks to best promote the bilateral trade-economic relations. In private/business sectors, Chambers of Commerce of both countries are continuously developing and finding ways on how to concretely reach profitable deals.    
In 2018, the Ministries of Health from both countries inked cooperation agreement in health sector, focusing on health services such as pharmaceutical/medical products/equipment and related Research and Development. The Indonesian Minister of Health also paid a visit to Iran in September 2019 to concretely follow up the matters.   

Under the COVID-19 pandemic, health cooperation between both countries developed in particular in fight against the pandemic. President Joko Widodo and President Hassan Rouhani in a telephone conversation on 27 April 2020 talked about the COVID-19 pandemic and the two countries’ plans to fight the highly contagious disease, sharing each country’s experiences and plans for cooperation. President Jokowi confirmed the need for solidarity among nations during the COVID-19 pandemic since COVID-19 knows no borders, ethnicities and religions. The Iranian and Indonesian health ministers had held virtual meetings for the said goals.    

People-to-people contact is key to mutual promotion in developing better mutual understanding. Indonesia and Iran maintained good and flourishing cooperation in youth, cultural, educational, sports and tourism sectors. Culturally, both countries share quite abundantly and concretize as such among others through familiarization program to introduce Indonesian tourism object/wonders. Indonesia is inviting (anticipation for post COVID-19 era) to enjoy our nature wonders. Worth mentioning, Iran is the biggest origin of foreign tourists from West Asia to visit Indonesia (more than 10.000 visitors in 2018 alone). Indonesia is more than willing to share knowledge on tourism business with Iran.    

The global COVID-19 pandemic nowadays does not hinder our efforts in this enterprise. While the tourism sector is impacted quite badly due to the pandemic, Indonesia still sees and expects further improvement in the coming years. On women empowerment and child protection, as current as October-November 2020, both sides respectively conducted Joint Virtual Workshop on Women Empowerment through ICT and Child Protection in Cyberspace and sharing best practices on the implementation of Child-Friendly City in Indonesia.  

To conclude and in the context of commemoration of 70 years of Indonesia-Iran diplomatic relations and with the world still under the COVID-19 pandemic, it is worth the efforts to: concretely promote and implement the bilateral health cooperation which include health technology; to exert further for the conduct of the next bilateral economic/trade joint commission meeting as well as meeting of the committee of bilateral consultation with the focus on trade/economic cooperation and economic recovery in the post COVID-19 era; finalization of Preferential Trade Agreement negotiation. It is also timely to utilize the 70th commemoration momentum to find alternative ways, while still under situation marked by economic sanctions and COVID-19 pandemic, in order to reach the target of our bilateral trade, promotion of both inbound and outbound investment and tourism cooperation.  

Ronny Prasetyo Yuliantoro is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to the Islamic Republic of Iran