News Desk: Indonesian Ambassador to Bangladesh Heru H Subolo has suggested “broader action plans” to strengthen his country’s genuine partnership with Bangladesh to prosper together.
With stable economic growth and a favourable investment climate in Bangladesh, Ambassador Subolo thinks, the prospects of trade and investment are “open wider”.
“Bangladesh and Indonesia need to prosper together, need to see themselves as a comprehensive friend and partners,” he said while delivering keynote speech at the latest episode of Cosmos Dialogue held virtually on Wednesday.
As the two countries celebrate the 50 years of their bilateral relations, the ambassador said, it provides the opportunity to strengthen the economic partnership, deepen bilateral trade and digital economic environment, invest in energy power generation and distribution and enhance people to people connect to power their prosperous future together.
The Indonesian envoy who has held several leadership positions in his diplomatic career, said Bangladesh is also a potential market for Indonesia's strategic and leading industries.
Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, hosted the dialogue titled “Bangladesh Indonesia Relations: Prognosis for the Future” as part of its ongoing Ambassador's Lecture Series.
The opening remarks were delivered by Cosmos Foundation Executive Director Nahar Khan. The session was chaired by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, a renowned scholar-diplomat and former Advisor on Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Caretaker Government.
Professor at Department of International Relations, Dhaka University Dr Lailufar Yasmin, Dhaka Courier Executive Editor Shayan S Khan and Honorary Advisor Emeritus, Cosmos Foundation Ambassador (Retd) Tariq A Karim comprised the panel of discussants. Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan also spoke.
Dr Iftekhar said he has long admired Indonesia as a “free and active” foreign policy and its leadership role in the ASEAN as Asia Pacific's largest economy.
“As we evolve our bilateral relations, we also bear in mind that there is an evolution of another set of relationships in the region, which are security focus, and Indonesia has shown the way how we can steer clear of involvement in those big power disputes and develop our bilateral relations in a way that it benefits our nations and peoples,” he added.
Sharing his personal observation, Enayetullah Khan said Bangladesh and Indonesia’s ties have been totally underexploited and he hoped that the two countries will definitely look at the opportunities.
Khan laid emphasis on taking advantage of Bangladesh’s geographical location and noted that, “We have overlooked and underestimated our strength and it is time for us to assert and to act.”
Nahar Khan said the two nations which belong to the Indian Ocean Rim Association are becoming important trade partners.
As the largest economy of Southeast Asia and the second largest economy in South Asia respectively, Indonesia and Bangladesh now enjoy natural opportunities to expand their economic engagement with each other, she said.
Prof Lailufar Yasmin said both Indonesia and Bangladesh pursue a similar foreign policy based on five principles of coexistence.
She praised Indonesia’s proactive role in the Rohingya issue from the very beginning. “We know that the Rohingya issue might take a little time to resolve, but we applaud and we encourage Indonesia's continuous proactive role in this issue.”
Shayan Khan said it was surprising that despite having all the ingredients in place for a close bilateral relationship, Bangladesh and Indonesia had not engaged more with each other during the course of the last 50 years.
Tariq A Karim said the two countries need to intensify their cooperation with each other and rediscover each other more.
The former diplomat said both Bangladesh and Indonesia happen to be situated right in the centre of this oceanic world. “So, in a sense, we have a strategic value to the rest of the world, far greater than what we imagine ourselves to be. And we can only take advantage of this, if we work closely together.”
Ambassador Subolo said people to people contact must be strengthened by enhancing more cooperation in education including capacity building sectors, culture, health etc.
To do so, he said, the strengthening Indonesian diaspora in Bangladesh and Bengali diaspora in Indonesia is indeed a mission to do, elevated to a new perspective and modern chapter.
So far, the ambassador said, Bangladesh and Indonesia have continuously collaborated in the defence and military fields in the form of student exchanges in Defence Services Command and Staff College, and National Defence College.
Currently, the envoy said, both countries are working to finalize the PTA to cover more products and for facilitating more trade interactions between two countries.
The completion of PTA will give significant impacts to increase bilateral trade transactions, he said.
The volume of bilateral trade jumped sharply up to 72 per cent from US$1.76 billion in 2020 to US$3.03 billion in 2021.
“It is interesting to learn that our trade is not only focused on traditional commodities but covers broad and strategic products too,” he said.