Bogor, Indonesia: Saudi Arabia pledged $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) in development finance for Indonesia and expanded cooperation in other areas, deepening ties with Southeast Asia’s biggest economy as Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and a huge entourage arrived on Wednesday for a nine-day visit.
Enthusiastic crowds lined the route of King Salman’s heavily guarded motorcade as it arrived in Bogor, near the capital Jakarta, where officials events were held at an imposing presidential palace.
He was earlier welcomed at Jakarta’s Halim airport by President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo and the minority Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama, who is fighting a tough election battle after being charged with blaspheming the Quran.
At a joint news conference, the countries’ foreign ministers affirmed Saudi Aramco and Indonesian oil company Pertamina’s plans for a $6-billion refinery joint venture in Cilacap in central Java. The two countries also signed 11 agreements that included a Saudi commitment to provide $1 billion of financing for economic development and cooperation to combat transnational crime such as people smuggling, terrorism and drug trafficking.
King Salman is on a tour of Asian countries to advance the kingdom’s economic and business interests. On his first stop in Malaysia, Saudi Aramco signed a $7-billion deal to take a 50 per cent stake in a Malaysian oil refinery.
King Salman will also visit Brunei, Japan, China and the Maldives, the official Saudi Press Agency has reported.
The first visit of a Saudi monarch to Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, in nearly a half century generated blanket media coverage.
Salman will spend six of his nine days in Indonesia vacationing on the resort island of Bali, a predominantly Hindu part of the Indonesian archipelago.
“As the world’s biggest Muslim nation, Indonesia will always have a special bond with Saudi Arabia,” said Widodo. “Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are two big countries that have important influence in the region, and our countries should continue to improve cooperation both in bilateral and international contexts.”
Indonesia practices a moderate form of Islam and has a democratic secular government. Widodo
said he appreciated that Indonesia’s Haj quota had been expanded for 2017, with 221,000 pilgrims allowed from the country.
Indonesia has said it hopes for $25 billion of new investments from Saudi Arabia. The two leaders discussed possibilities including three oil refineries, a power plant and infrastructure such as roads, housing and sanitation.
Aside from the two countries having a common faith, Saudi Arabia employs hundreds of thousands of Indonesians despite a government ban on sending domestic workers there following the execution of an Indonesian maid in 2011.