Dec 18, 2012

Indonesia - Yudhoyono seeks 'mutual respect, tolerance' in M'sia visit

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Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said yesterday that he would raise the issues of mutual respect and tolerance during his annual consultations with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Yudhoyono was commenting on an article written by former Malaysian information minister Zainuddin Maidin, which is considered by many here as offensive toward former Indonesian president BJ Habibie.

“The article written by a former Malaysian minister, Zainuddin, on our third president Pak Habibie, was improper and unethical and could jeopardise good ties between Indonesia and Malaysia,” Yudhoyono said after watching the movie Habibie dan Ainun in Kuningan, South Jakarta, as quoted by Antara news agency.

“We have worked it out, the foreign minister will take diplomatic notes both here and in Kuala Lumpur.”

Therefore, Yudhoyono added, Indonesia would raise the issues of mutual respect and tolerance during the annual consultations so that similar incidents would not recur to obstruct friendship between both countries.

In his article, Zainudin made a comparison between Habibie and Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim which the former minister portrayed as traitors and “The Dog Of Imperialism”.

Many parties both in Malaysia and Indonesia have deplored the article and called for a calm resolution.

Yudhoyono is leaving on Tuesday for Malaysia to attend the annual consultation, the highest forum in Malaysia-Indonesia in bilateral ties, presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said in a written statement yesterday.

The president would also raise priority issues including protection for Indonesians working in Malaysia, borders, trade and investment, Faizasyah said.

Yudhoyono will have a private, face-to-face meeting with Najib before leading the ninth annual consultations.

North Malaysia University is scheduled to confer the president with an honourary Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership of Peace.

On Wednesday, Yudhoyono will leave for India to attend the Asean-India Commemorative Summit marking 20 years of relations between the Southeast Asian regional group and India. He is also scheduled to attend the Indonesian Students Association (PPI) world conference in New Delhi.

The summit will discuss various ways to improve cooperation and partnerships between Asean and India and setting the future vision for Asean-India relationships.

Bilateral trade between India and Asean was US$74.9 billion in 2011, a 43 per cent increase from the previous year. The figure exceeded the $70 billion target for 2012 while both parties have set a target of US$100 billion by 2015 for Asean-India trade.

The Asean-India free trade agreement is being expanded to also include investment and services.

The current FTA covers only tariffs for goods and became effective on Jan. 1, 2010.

With a combined population of 1.8 billion and GDP of $2.75 trillion, Asean and India have created one of the largest free trade areas in the world.

Asean is also moving toward a more ambitious plan to repackage five FTAs involving six major trading partners into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which was announced at the 21st Asean Summit and Related Summits held in Phnom Penh in November. Negotiations will start in early 2013.

In addition to India, the enlarged free trade area also includes Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea with a combined population of some 3 billion and GDP of $15 trillion.

Novan Iman Santosa

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