Abu Dhabi: Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, and the UAE, share common values of moderate Islam and can work together to promote tolerance and act against religious extremism, says Indonesia's President Joko Widodo.
"I think this is a great potential. I see that religious moderation and diversity in the UAE are widely respected. And that is the area of cooperation we would like to explore more because we both share the closeness in the vision and characters of moderate Islam that propagates tolerance," Joko Widodo said in an exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi.
"In religious life, I see that the UAE has been able to develop these moderate values that complement the country's pursuit for peace and development."
Widodo, who is on a three-day official visit to the UAE, said the cooperation between the two countries in this regard is moving in the right direction.
"We exchange our views and experiences on this, and we have sent many imams [those who lead prayers at mosques] to the UAE. We hope that both countries can promote the concept of religious moderation and tolerance, and enhance the awareness among people on the dangers of extremism and radicalism," he said.
"Our relationship with the UAE is not just like friends; we are like brothers. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan [Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces] is a man of vision and a man of action; I feel comfortable cooperating with him and that is reflected in the close relationship between our countries."
CEPA to triple trade volumes
Talking about the bilateral economic relations, he said the economic and investment ties with the UAE are one of the priorities of the Indonesian Government.
Indonesia is among the ten countries that the UAE wants to increase its annual exports to by 10 percent, as announced in the country's Projects of the 50' initiative. The two countries have started negotiations in September on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
"I hope if we are able to conclude the CEPA, then the trade volumes will further be increased two to three times," the President said, revealing that the bilateral trade witnessed 27.78 percent upsurge to reach US$215 million during the first seven months of 2021, from US$168 million during the same period in 2020.
"The bilateral economic and investment relations have huge potential; both countries have the same vision to move forward. The affinity between two peoples is good and we have the same characteristics. We are open and diverse, and that is the importance of the relationship between the two countries," he explained.
UAE as hub between ASEAN, Middle East
Indonesia considers the UAE as a hub in the Middle East for its trade with the region, Widodo said.
"The cooperation between Indonesia and UAE could also help improve the relations between ASEAN [association of 10 Southeast Asian nations] and the Middle East. We are also exploring the cooperation in such sectors as healthcare, technology and renewable energy. I think these sectors are important for the future," the President affirmed.
Widodo believes that the Indonesia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will help exchange knowledge, expertise and investment opportunities in those three areas with the UAE and the rest of the world.
"We want to showcase Indonesia's potential in all areas, especially in trade and tourism. We hope Expo would help attract more tourists to Indonesia and increase our trade and investment relations with the UAE and other parts of the world."
UAE's $10 billion investments in Indonesia
The UAE had announced in March 2021 that it will invest US$10 billion in Indonesia's sovereign wealth fund Indonesia Investment Authority (IIA).
"We are delighted about the UAE's announcement on the US$10 billion investment. I believe this is an initial investment, because there is a bigger potential [for investments] in the future. We have plenty of opportunities in the renewable energy development, as well as the construction of the new Indonesian capital city," he said.
Indonesia's progress will be focused on development of infrastructure and human capital, the President stressed, saying this has been his focus during the first and second terms of his presidency. Widodo first became the President in 2014 and won a second term in 2019.
Talking about his priorities, he said, "I'm an ordinary person, born in an ordinary family. Hence, it is very normal for me to deal with common people. I would like to focus on work and achieve my goals."
Cooperation in climate change, global arena
"I respect the UAE's commitment to tackle climate change and the steps taken in that direction. And I support your offer to host the COP 28 [the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Abu Dhabi in 2023], the President said.
"And I also appreciate and welcome the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative, a national drive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050," he said referring to the UAE's announcement on 7th October, making the Emirates the first country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to make such a commitment.
Indonesia will also take concrete actions to achieve net zero emission by 2060 or earlier, Widodo revealed.
"We would like to concentrate in the rehabilitation of mangrove forests. We also want to reduce forest fire incidents in Indonesia."
Indonesia is committed to international cooperation on global issues such as climate change, especially with the UAE.
"We will continue to be an active player in the international arena."