On April 28, the United Arab Emirates sent 20 tons of medical aids for the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus in . This equipment is expected to help around 20,000 medical personnel in dealing with COVID-19, the disease caused by the . While the assistance was just the latest in a series of such initiatives, it nonetheless puts the spotlight on ’s relations with the , which have intensified since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
COVID-19: What Indonesia Can Learn From South Korea and Taiwan
The recent strengthening of visited in mid-January and signed 16 agreements with the ’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. The deals, which are deemed as the biggest in Indonesian history, consist of five government-to-government agreements in the fields of religion, education, agriculture, health and counterterrorism. They also involve 11 business-to-business deals in various sectors, including oil and gas, petrochemicals, ports, telecommunications and research. The estimated total value of this investment stands at $22.9 billion, or about 314.9 trillion rupiahs.– ties was demonstrated when President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo
Although deal on liquefied petroleum gas between ’s state-owned energy corporation PT Pertamina and the National Oil Company ( ). The two companies, along with the ’s investment vehicle, Mubadala, also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) titled, “Evaluat[ing] a Potential Crude to Petrochemical Complex Project at Balongan” in West Java worth $12.6 billion.was not one of the ’s major consumers for energy previously, this may soon change. This fact was showcased by a $270-million
Those agreements were also accompanied by another $3-billion long-term deal on naphtha supply between and PT Chandra Asri Petrochemical Tbk. These developments were perhaps caused by the fall in energy demands among the ’s usual consumers, such as China and the US, due to the coronavirus lockdowns around the world.
Another important sector that went to to meet with the ’s Minister of State for Defense Mohammed Ahmed al-Bowardi to strengthen defense diplomacy between the two countries.and the agreed to boost their cooperation is defense, which has been the major highlight in the two countries’ ties in recent years. In February, when the deadly was spreading fast around the world, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto
Besides defense diplomacy, Subianto also explored potential cooperation on the manufacturing of drones, weaponries, munitions and aerospace. The visit between the two top defense officials also focused on cross-training in counterterrorism operations and their application in hot spots throughout the Middle East and Africa.
It is important to note that the met with Bowardi to discuss Emirati and Indonesian assistance to Mali and the rest of the G5 Sahel nations. This expansion of military-to-military relations across the Sahel by the is illustrative of ’s scope of transregional operations, which will grow further in the wake of the ’s pandemic assistance.opened up a defense attaché office in in December 2019. At that time, Malian Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and Malian Ambassador to the Boukary Sidibe
Beyond energy and defense sectors, emphasized their aim to partner in promoting a moderate understanding of Islam which, according to the two sides, “is very important for efforts to prevent extremism and terrorism.” This collaboration was marked by the signing of an MoU by ’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and the ’s General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowment.and
The UAE’s Soft Power
The partnership will involve exchanging experiences developing the capacity of imams and preachers in boosting the ’s soft power “tolerance and moderation” concept, as well as sharing experiences and expertise in the field of Quran memorization, translation and publication. Both countries also agreed to exchange delegates in Islamic forums and to cooperate in the construction of mosques. has closed all mosques in the country as part of its measures to curb the spread of the , and it has broadcast services and educational lessons via the internet. In one sense, this falls within the idea of Islamic boarding schools, except it is online and to a wide audience.
Accordingly, the decided to build the Mohammed bin Zayed Grand Mosque in Solo, Central Java, that will enable scholars, politicians and academics from both nations to discuss ways to reinforce religious moderation. and the also agreed to cooperate in implementing digital education programs for madrasa students and to strengthen their partnership in the halal food sector.has
The overall purpose of this Emirati soft power effort is building up the concept of the Abrahamic house, where Christianity, Islam and Judaism exist together under one roof and to use that principle to guide religious discussion between the two countries in terms of “tolerance and moderation.”
Recently, as part of the agreement’s implementation, Indonesia’s National Standardization Agency (BSN) inked a deal with the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology to recognize each other’s halal certificates. Such a partnership is aimed at enabling Indonesian products to reach the ’s market, and vice-versa.
Certainly, the’s latest COVID-19 assistance to was just the latest development in the growing – relations in recent years. Since 1976, the two governments have witnessed remarkable, yet silent, growth in their two-way relationship. In 2020, these moves by the are part of expanding the country’s soft power policy.
One important development that is often missed is that Jokowi has decided to appoint as a member of a steering board for his new capital plan, alongside Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Looking for Other Partners
Against the backdrop of any potential economic downturn in China as well as the US and Europe caused by Beijing’s trade war with Washington and now the coronavirus pandemic, many countries — including the established a representative office in .and — have tried to find alternative partners. ’s geographical position as Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and a G20 member makes it an alluring target for investment. With a population of more than 267 million, is an enticing consumer market for Emirati exports. This factor is why the ’s investment in the archipelago is the most dominant among Arab countries, according to ’s Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), which has
At the same time, credentials” regarding political issues such as Kashmir and Islamophobia. However, all three nations complement each other in terms of mil-to-mil relations.’s strategic location offers the Emirates an opening to boost its ties with other countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc. In particular, the ’s relationship with neighboring Malaysia is problematic, given previous issues between and Kuala Lumpur on issues ranging from Islamic affairs to financial issues involving the 1MBD investigation. By tightening their relationship, both and can put pressure on Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic “
For anti-Chinese sentiment, which has grown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has presented difficulty for China, which is one of ’s largest investors. Consequently, bolstering relations with fellow Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East is seen as a safer option by Jakarta. The China-US trade war has driven some firms to choose Southeast Asian nations over China as a base for their operations, but few have opted for Indonesia, causing Jakarta to look to the Gulf., long-standing
To be clear, COVID-19 has provided Indonesia and the UAE with a chance to enhance their bilateral relations at a critical time in transregional relationships. The UAE will remain important to Indonesia as a country in the Gulf that can serve as a gateway to new markets as well as a major hub for the largest Muslim-majority country’s expansion throughout the greater Middle East. Assistance from Abu Dhabi could steer its ties with Indonesia in a more strategic direction.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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