Vietnamese Ambassador to Indonesia Tạ Văn Thông. — VNA/VNS Photo Hữu Chiến
Vietnam News Agency discusses bilateral ties with the Vietnamese Ambassador to Indonesia Tạ Văn Thông as foreign minister Bùi Thanh Sơn arrives for an official visit to co-chair the fourth Joint Committee on Bilateral Cooperation meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno L.P. Marsudi in Jakarta on July 19-21.
Could you give us a brief overview of the cooperation potential between Việt Nam and Indonesia?
Việt Nam and Indonesia have a long-standing traditional friendship, cultivated by President Hồ Chí Minh and President Sukarno and generations of leaders of the two countries. The upgrading of ties to Strategic Partnership in 2013 is an important foundation for the bilateral relationship to further develop and deepen in various fields.
In terms of politics and diplomacy, the two countries maintain a good friendship and share many strategic co-benefits, including the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide, and both are active members of key international and regional organisations and forums such as ASEAN, the United Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Non-Aligned Movement, etc. Việt Nam and Indonesia both carry out a peaceful, independent and active foreign policy in order to promote multilateralism, advance a rules-based international order, and settle disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international laws.
Regarding defence and security, the two sides have established and are promoting bilateral cooperation mechanisms as well such as the Defence Policy Dialogue at the Deputy Ministerial level, exchanges between the armed forces and other delegations at all levels, and at the same time, we are working closely at multilateral forums such as the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM), ADMM Plus (ADMM+), the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), the ASEAN Police Chiefs (ASEANAPOL).
Economically, two-way trade has more than doubled since the establishment of the Strategic Partnership and there is still plenty of room for further growth with a market of nearly 100 million people in Việt Nam and 275 million people in Indonesia.
Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia, is currently a member of the G20 and may in the long run be among the world’s leading economies; while Việt Nam is a fast-growing economy and is aiming to become a developed and high-income country. Việt Nam’s intensive international integration policy and the Vision of Indonesia 2045 will create many cooperation opportunities between the two sides. There are many new fields of potential cooperation between the two sides such as clean energy, renewable energy, digital economy, and agricultural digital transformation, among others.
In terms of culture, society and people-to-people exchanges, there is always a feeling of closeness between us due to the many similarities in culture, the rich history of struggles for national liberation, and the fact that we are in the great family of the ASEAN Community. Some localities of the two countries have signed twinning agreements and positive results have been logged. Once the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control, cooperation in education, training and tourism will be fully restored.
What are the major accomplishments in bilateral cooperation in recent times and especially during the two years of pandemic?
Despite unprecedented challenges caused by COVID-19, bilateral cooperation since the third JCBC in Hà Nội in April 2018 has seen positive results.
First, the two sides have maintained high-level visits, including the State visit of Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Việt Nam in September 2018 and the official visit to Indonesia by Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính in April 2021; the phone conversation between State President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc and President Joko Widodo in February 2020 and July 2021; bilateral meeting between Speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives Puan Maharani and Chairman of the National Assembly of Việt Nam Vương Đình Huệ on the sidelines of the 5th World Parliament Presidents Conference (WCSP) in Austria’s Vienna in September 2021, etc.
We will continue to work for further visits by high-ranking leaders of the two countries in the future. The two countries closely coordinated in 2020 when Việt Nam served as ASEAN Chair and the two countries are elected non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
Second, economic, investment and trade relations have made important progress. Two-way trade has increased from US$5.6 billion in 2014 to more than $11 billion in 2021, exceeding the $10 billion target set out in the 2019-2023 Action Plan. This is a highlight of bilateral economic cooperation despite the serious disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
Third, visits and cooperation activities between the ministries and agencies of the two countries are maintained, including the working visit of Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi in December 2019, the official visit of Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto in May 2022; the Second Defence Policy Dialogue at Deputy Ministerial level in October 2021; naval exchange in December 2021; the signing of the MOU on cooperation between the two countries' Coast Guard in December 2021; Annual Policy Dialogue at Department Director level of the two Foreign Ministries.
In addition, the two sides have coordinated to organise many cooperation activities such as training programs on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS), cybercrime, human trafficking and maritime security, prevention and control of drug crimes, counter-terrorism, and various different mechanisms in ASEAN.
Fourth, cultural cooperation and people-to-people exchanges have flourished through a series of activities to celebrate the 60th anniversary of President Hồ Chí Minh’s visit to Indonesia and President Sukarno's visit to Việt Nam (1959-2019), such as seminars, online and in-person photo exhibitions in Jakarta, Bali, and Yoyakarta; as well as activities to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Direct flights between Hà Nội and Bali, HCM City and Jakarta, plus HCM City and Bali have strongly promoted tourism and business and will be resumed in the near future. A direct flight between the two capital cities Hà Nội and Jakarta is also being considered. During the pandemic, authorities have coordinated and safely repatriated more than 1,000 Vietnamese citizens from Indonesia.
Aside from the positive results, there remain some difficulties and challenges due to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is necessary to take measures to ensure a state of balance in trade, international travel, and tourism. Direct flights have not been fully restored, and the number of students and tourists from the two countries has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. In these matters, the two sides will need to regularly maintain exchanges through many channels in order to find the solutions.
Would you please give your assessment on the significance of the official visit of Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn to Indonesia?
Minister Sơn’s visit to Indonesia and co-chairing the 4th JCBC meeting takes place amid complicated developments in regional and international situations, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have been posing adverse impacts on global political and economic relations, including both Việt Nam and Indonesia.
Therefore, this visit first demonstrates the high determination of the two sides in maintaining the exchange of delegations and bilateral cooperation mechanisms, contributing to further strengthening relations, especially after the last two years.
Second, the two sides will evaluate the implementation of the results of the 3rd JCBC meeting, discuss major directions and specific measures to continue strengthening the cooperation between the two countries in all fields, especially activities to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the strategic partnership in 2023.
Third, the trip also affirms Việt Nam’s attention to build up the traditional friendship and strategic partnership with Indonesia, showing Việt Nam’s support for Indonesia as the President of the G20 this year as well as the ASEAN Chair in 2023.
What are the main contents that will be discussed at the 4th JCBC meeting?
The two foreign ministers will co-chair the meeting to evaluate the overall results of cooperation in all fields from politics, diplomacy, defence, security, economy, trade, cultural and social and people-to-people exchanges. They will also talk on international and regional issues of mutual interest. The two sides will carefully discuss the shortcomings, issue major orientations and specific measures to continue deepening the cooperation between Việt Nam and Indonesia in the future, both bilaterally as well as within regional and international cooperation frameworks.
On the basis of the traditional friendship relationship of 67 years, I am confident that the upcoming 4th JCBC meeting will further consolidate and heighten the Việt Nam - Indonesia Strategic Partnership in line with the long-term interests of both countries and peoples, contributing to the upholding of peace, stability and promotion of cooperation in the region and the world. — VNS