JAKARTA. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, appeared side by side at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday in a choreographed effort to demonstrate Indonesia’s willingness to strengthen its geopolitical influence in the war-torn country.
Still feeling the aftermath of a US invasion to dismantle terrorist group Al Qaeda, Afghanistan currently is hardly a place from which Indonesia can expect massive trade and investment, which is something Jokowi normally seeks in bilateral meetings with foreign counterparts.
Wednesday’s meeting only briefly touched on trade and investment, while talks between the two presidents primarily focused on Indonesia’s commitments to rebuilding Afghanistan in multiple areas.
The event at the palace began with a welcoming ceremony and concluded with a private moment between the presidents after lunch, before the two witnessed the signing of five agreements on education, agriculture, statistics, bureaucratic reform and fiscal policy.
Jokowi offered, among other things, support with peace building and reconciliation efforts as well as capacity building for officials, as he boasted about the establishment of the Indonesia Islamic Center (IIC) in Kabul.
The IIC is set to serve as a religious, health and education center for residents of Kabul. The building could accommodate up to 2,500 people, said Jokowi, adding that the IIC would spread the teaching of Islam as rahmatan lil alamin, or blessing for the universe, which was compatible with Indonesia’s Islam Nusantara (archipelago).
“We appreciate efforts taken by the Afghan government to create stability and peace, and Indonesia is ready to share its experience on reconciliation for peace,” Jokowi said during a joint press conference with Ghani.
Jokowi said Indonesia would also soon build health and education centers to serve people in Afghanistan, adding that following the bilateral meeting Indonesia would also grant scholarships to around 100 Afghan students to study at universities in Indonesia.
Indonesia has so far trained 358 Afghans in 47 programs in various areas, including agriculture, law enforcement, women’s empowerment and state administration. The number of participants is expected to grow after the Afghan president’s visit.
“We have agreed to expand co- operation on capacity building in the fields of law, housing, higher education and fiscal policy in the near future,” Jokowi said.
Jokowi said that Wednesday’s meeting also agreed to open doors for interaction among businesspeople from the two countries to boost trade and economic ties. Indonesian and Afghan businesspeople are slated to hold a meeting in Jakarta on Thursday.
Indonesia’s General Elections Commission also invited its Afghan counterpart to share experience on holding peaceful and open elections, like Indonesia’s 2014 presidential and legislative elections.
Afghanistan is among the first countries that acknowledged Indonesia’s independence in 1945, and it also helped Indonesia implement the Asia–Africa conference in 1955. The bilateral relationship between the two countries is now 62 years old.
Speaking after Jokowi, Ghani praised Indonesia’s success story “in consolidating democracy, the rule of law and constitutional governance,” adding that Afghanistan was looking to join Indonesia’s global efforts to interpret Islam as rahmatan lil alamin.
“Our peace council and government look forward to receiving delegations from Indonesia that could share lessons with us,” Ghani said.
The Afghan president said his country would also learn from Indonesia’s success in encouraging a civilization where women, especially female clerics, actively participated in public affairs.
Indonesia to build health and education centers in Afghanistan Indonesia to grant scholarships to around 100 Afghan students.
Editor: Sanny Cicilia