Since the most recent visit of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Indonesia in 2012, Kazakhstan and Indonesia have seen a trade surge that has tripled the two countries’ mutual imports and exports and has increased the number of the countries’ joint projects.
“In my opinion, the most important cooperation between Kazakhstan and Indonesia involves joint business deals. Encouraging businessmen to be more active in the two countries’ relations is our current top priority. Since 2012, we have concluded about 10 agreements, including establishing joint stock companies in the food, medical and tire industry, amongst others, but many of these joint stock companies are still in their infant stages.”
The trade turnover between the two countries has been steadily growing; in 2010 it amounted to $23.8 million. It reached $35.1 million in 2011, $57.3 million in 2012 and $171 million in 2013. Most activity takes place in the oil and gas commodity exchanges. Kazakhstan generally imports manufacturing equipment and electronic spare parts while Indonesia buys minerals and processed products.
“We have also established an intergovernmental joint commission focused on economic cooperation to find solutions to problems in mutual trade. Transportation will be a major focus of this commission, as our two countries are separated by [quite] a distance. This is a hurdle for businesses, as distance greatly affects transportation costs and delivery times.”
According to the ambassador, lack of connections is the biggest challenge faced by businesses conducting trade between Kazakhstan and Indonesia. There is no direct flight yet between Indonesia and Kazakhstan.
“Another area our two countries could improve ties in is tourism, as well as in person-to-person contacts,” he said. Direct flights from Kazakhstan to Indonesia could be put forward. This is vital for the population of the two nations to encourage more visits to boost tourism. Every day, we issue about 20 to 30 visas to Kazakh citizens. The number of tourists is increasing because more Kazakhstan citizens are learning about Indonesia, especially our world famous tourist destination, Bali. Costs are competitive, traditions are intriguing and there are many things to do in nature, making the archipelago an interesting place for Kazakhstan citizens to take honeymoons.”
“Kazakhstan is also becoming more well known in Indonesia,” the ambassador explained. “Kazakhstan used to be a part of the USSR, which in turn had tight relations with Indonesia. Today, Kazakhstan is appealing to Indonesians because of its many Islamic sites. Kazakhstan is also becoming well known in the sports world, as well as in chess; Indonesia invites many coaches from Kazakhstan and other sports too. We are also developing sports relations between the countries.”
Similarities between Indonesia and Kazakhstan, cultural exchange
“[Indonesia] is a multicultural nation, we are used to being a community of many ethnic groups with their own [cultural] values and languages,” the ambassador explained. “In total, we have about 300 ethnic groups and Indonesia is the fourth largest country by population in the world. It is home to 250 million people, excluding foreigners and visitors. The country is the largest archipelago nation in the world, consisting of 17,508 islands. Kazakhstan has at least 130 ethnic groups. We share a respect for diversity.”
“Also, the symbol of Indonesia is an eagle, the Garuda, just like Kazakhstan’s symbol, the Samruk. Ironically, not long after independence, Indonesia’s main industries were oil and gas. [Our] country is also rich in natural resources like zinc, gold, iron, coal etc. We realise that these resources are finite, so we are working on developing our market share in textiles and household equipment and increasing the number of plantations, expanding the high-tech sector and automotive and electronic industries as well as cocoa and rubber production, amongst other things, with a focus on our maritime industry,” he explained.
Garuda Pancasila holds the five principles of Indonesia’s national philosophy and the scroll in the Garuda’s talons bears the national motto ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika,’ which means ‘Unity in Diversity.’
“This means that both nations, cultures and countries have similarities. We are also both establishing our national identities in a manner that accommodates our diversity. In order to do this, we established one official state language to unite all Indonesian people. While English is becoming a widely understood language in Indonesia, French and Dutch are also common.”
The ambassador feels very upbeat about the cultural exchange between the two countries and vowed that the Indonesian mission will take more exciting steps to unveil Indonesian culture to the people of the steppe.
“Every year, the Indonesian government offers two types of non-degree scholarships with six-month to one-year programmes, the first being focused on Indonesian arts and culture and the second is a multi-disciplinary science including an Indonesian language programme,” he said. “We have established a cultural centre for students who have returned from these programmes, in hopes of attracting more students in the future. We are also planning to launch a youth exchange programme to give young people the opportunity to travel to our country and stay with Indonesian families for a few months so when they return, they can also meet amongst one another, dance traditional dances and play traditional musical instruments like the Gamelan, which is a traditional ensemble music from Java and Bali, and the Angklung – a musical instrument made from bamboo tubes.”
“We also would like to establish language exchanges as some words in Kazakh and Indonesian are the same. Both languages have inherited words from Arabic, we say ‘kitap’ for book for instance just like Kazakhs. ‘Zhuma’ means Friday in both languages,” he said.
Prior to his present assignment, Ambassador Foster Gultom served as Secretary of the Directorate General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Director of the ASEAN Economic Cooperation Section at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia.
“I didn’t have any prior knowledge of Kazakhstan before my posting here,” Gultom said. “When I first arrived in Astana, I was really impressed by the city’s rapid growth. The city is extremely well organised. The only thing Astana is lacking is green space and mountains. Now, it is growing even faster than at that time because of the upcoming EXPO 2017. Astana can easily become the country’s business hub, while Kazakhstan could become a regional hub and broker relations between, Europe, Asia and Russia.”
“Kazakhstan is the binding link between these countries and we know about connectivity in Indonesia, as we are a collection of thousands of islands,” the ambassador said. “In reading the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, I see that the country has put forward plans to implement a long-term strategy to become this vital link, while still emphasising its own internal human resources. Indonesia is also focusing on its human resources because a country’s citizenry is the only thing that determines if it thrives or fails.”
Ambassador Gultom joined Indonesia’s diplomatic service in 1985 and has served in his country’s embassies or missions in Washington, D.C., Geneva, Canberra and Seoul.