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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JAKARTA: Indonesians welcomed increasing interactions with Saudi Arabia as they took part in celebrations to commemorate the Kingdom’s 93rd National Day in Jakarta on Monday.
Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority nation and a country of 270 million people, has been a staunch supporter of Saudi Arabia and its leadership. A Lowy Institute survey showed in 2021 that of all world leaders, Indonesians held the most confidence in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi-Indonesian ties span centuries, but have only recently gained momentum, when King Salman arrived in Indonesia in 2017. The trip was historic as the first by a Saudi monarch since King Faisal bin Abdulaziz visited Jakarta in 1970.
In the past six years, high-level bilateral exchanges have been on the rise on the political level and in business, especially after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took part in the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali, when Indonesia held the group’s rotating presidency in 2022.
Both countries expect to boost their ties even more when President Joko Widodo visits Riyadh next month.
The upcoming trip was announced by Saudi Ambassador Faisal Abdullah Amodi and Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas during a ceremony held in Jakarta as part of events hosted by the Kingdom around the world to mark its National Day.
The Indonesian president’s visit “is expected to contribute effectively to the relations between the two countries reaching a strategic level,” Amodi told the audience, which included Indonesian Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, the former president and leader of the ruling party, Megawati Sukarnoputri, the former vice president, Jusuf Kalla, Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan, and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.
As Widodo is scheduled to meet the crown prince, Indonesia hopes the trip will “open up an even more strategic cooperation between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia,” Quomas said.
“Brotherhood between our countries will be even stronger in the coming years.”
The National Day ceremony, which featured traditional Saudi sword dancing, a display of the Kingdom’s megaprojects under Vision 2030 and a performance by the Saudi School in Jakarta, has already brought Saudis and Indonesian closer together.
“Both countries are highly respectful of one another, and I think that’s why all these top officials like Megawati, Jusuf Kalla, Prabowo and Ma’ruf Amin were all here,” Fay Kadaroesman, vice president of Women’s International Club Jakarta, told Arab News. “I can tell that relations are very close, and it’s really good.”
For Subhan Cholid, head of the Indonesian Hajj Organization Committee, the ceremony was an opportunity to meet Saudis and forge new friendships.
“With this event we were able to meet, talk, and chat,” he said. “We could meet and celebrate together, be a part of a shared National Day celebrations.”
And the sentiment was mutual.
Jameel Saeed Kabbarah, vice chairman of the board of directors of the Cooperative Maritime Business Association, who arrived in Indonesia from Jeddah for a family vacation, was for the first time celebrating National Day outside the Kingdom.
“It’s good to see different people. The world is very small nowadays,” he said. “I’m very proud to be part of this crowd and celebrate this great occasion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
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