Siti Nugraha Mauludiah is Indonesia’s ambassador to Poland. She gave Asia Times an exclusive interview on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. To read Part 1, click here.
Adriel Kasonta: Does the high economic growth of Poland, as well as the central, strategic location of the country in the heart of Europe, suggest that in the coming years the popularity of Warsaw among the Southeast Asian countries will increase? How is this vision of Poland as a tiger of Europe seen from the perspective of Indonesian economic interest in this region?
Ambassador Siti Nugraha Mauludiah: In recent years, Poland has already enjoyed a rising popularity among the Southeast Asia countries. This comes from the fact that Poland has put more effort to be present in our region, especially in Indonesia. The establishment of PAIH (Polish Investment and Trade Agency) in Jakarta, for instance, has made more Indonesians aware of Poland, not to mention the increase of trade between the two countries.
But of course, I also have to mention your ambassador in Jakarta. She is very active and I know she has made a lot of efforts in spreading the good news about Poland in Indonesia, which has raised more interest not only among the Indonesians, but also Indonesian media.
But it is not only the strategic location of Poland in the heart of Europe that makes Poland gain more popularity among the Southeast Asia nations, it is also the fact that Poland has comparative advantages as one of the best investment destinations. This speaks volumes when we observe how Covid-19 pandemic has changed our world, how it has impacted the global economy, how the global supply chain has been disrupted.
The disruption of the global supply chain became an eye-opener to how fragile the global economy is when it relies too heavily on one country for all the supplies needed. The borderless world has become so fragmented because of the lockdown policies implemented by almost every government in the effort of stopping the virus from spreading.
Disruptions on the logistic ends created chaos in the global supply network. Countries are starting to look into other possible supply sources, closer to home, closer to where the end products are manufactured.
Poland has been one of the most attractive investment destinations in the region. It was ranked third in Europe for foreign investment in new projects last year. This fact has made Poland more attractive for European producers who are relocating their manufacturer from outside Europe, mainly from China, to be closer to home, in Europe.
The more companies choose Poland for their relocation purposes, the more attractive Poland becomes for the countries in Southeast Asia. Because of this, in the coming years, Poland will become the Tiger of Europe, and Indonesia could reap benefits from it by becoming part of the supply chain.
Furthermore, Indonesia could offer its labor, from low level to semi and skilled professionals, to fill the vacancies in Poland as a result of this relocation. As you know, Indonesia will have bonus demography in the coming years, when there will be more than 65% of our population in productive age.
AK: Does the current tension between Beijing and Washington affect Indonesia’s relations with Poland? Are we facing a period of difficult choices?
SNM: I don’t think the tensions between China and the USA affect Indonesia-Poland relations. Our bilateral relations have endured many difficult storms. We have always committed to fully supporting each other. Our association with friendly countries, as well as unfriendly ones, has never affected our bilateral relations. Yes, there have been some differences in our outlook and foreign policies, but this never resulted in tension or friction that could hinder our cooperation.
Since gaining our independence, Indonesian foreign relations have adhered to a “free and active” foreign policy, seeking to play a role in regional affairs commensurate with our size and location, but avoiding involvement in conflicts among major powers. The policy is free, or independent, because Indonesia does not side with world powers.
At the same time, the foreign policy is active to the extent that Indonesia does not maintain a passive or reactive stand on international issues, but seeks active participation in their settlement. Thus the tension between the major powers from Indonesia’s point of view should not affect its relations with any friendly country.
However, Indonesia may benefit economically from the trade war of China and the USA, if we play our cards wisely. We could increase our exports to the USA, filling the gap that China left, and at the same time, some US companies that are relocating their business out of China have decided to choose Indonesia. I think the trade war between these two countries creates a huge opportunity for Indonesia’s businesses to upgrade their products to be more competitive to gain global market [share].
AK: Given the fact that the second wave of the Covid-19 virus seems to be just around the corner, how do you think Poland and Indonesia could help each other to prepare for the return of the pandemic? What steps should be taken now to make this cooperation did this even stronger when the pandemic ends?
SNM: As I have mentioned earlier, Poland and Indonesia share common concerns regarding global issues. One of them is unilateralism. Both our countries believe in multilateralism, and we believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has to be fought together, rather than individually.
We believe that countries should work together to find a cure and to ensure that it is affordable and there is fair distribution. Countries should work together to minimize the impacts, as well as a reoccurrence of this pandemic. Countries should work together to care for the most impacted by the pandemic. And countries should work together to ensure transparency, rule-based mechanisms, and ensure the sustainability of global supply chains.
None of those steps could be done unilaterally. Poland and Indonesia need to work together as the leaders of their respective regions, and all countries have to work together to this end.
AK: What is your wish for Poland and Indonesia in the context of the next 65 years of further cooperation between the two countries?
SNM: I wish the two countries could capitalize on untapped potential for cooperation. I firmly believe that there is more room for cooperation, since the two countries have abundant natural resources, relatively big populations, and basic modality for cooperation.
In political and security issues, Indonesia and Poland could have more modalities to promote bilateral relations, by intensifying exchange visits or consultations between heads of state and government, members of parliament, think-tanks and relevant stakeholders. Indonesia and Poland already have a bilateral consultation mechanism. The substance of the meetings should be elaborated more into practical matters reflecting mutual interests of the countries.
Furthermore, I wish the two countries could contribute more to global issues, such as SDGs, environment, human empowerment, human rights and other transnational issues (terrorism, human trafficking/smuggling, drug trafficking, money-laundering, etc).
In the economic field, I hope the two countries can promote direct trade between the businessmen from both countries. This can be realized if there are more chances for both parties to meet and share business opportunities.
I wish that in the future direct flights between Warsaw and Jakarta and Denpasar could be established. It would multiply economic impacts for both countries, not only in trade, but also in tourism and investment sector. For investment, I would love to see a more balanced situation between inbound and outbound investments.
In people-to-people contacts, there should be more intensified cooperation. In the education field, for example, I hope there will be more Polish students [learning] about Indonesia … more student exchange programs, more joint research projects, more vocational training involving private sectors and more university-to-university cooperation schemes.
Moreover, I hope that there will be more Indonesian restaurants in Poland in the near future, and there will be more Indonesian spices and cooking ingredients available on the Polish market. As an ambassador, I often invite my Polish counterparts for lunch or dinner at my residence and, of course, Indonesian dishes have always been served. I received many positive comments regarding the unique taste and presentation of the dishes now and then.
There are plenty of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and other Asian restaurants in Poland. Therefore, I think the existence of more Indonesian restaurants will add to the international feel of this country. Like people often say, food is also a way to a man’s heart. Through the common passion for food, I hope more interests will be cultivated and more doors for cooperation will open.
In conclusion, where we are today is not only a good place to stay, but also to grow. Hence I sincerely hope that in the next 65 years, Indonesia and Poland … as members of the world community will continue to demonstrate strong leadership in their respective regions, on the issues of common concerns, and will stay relevant to each other.
AK: Thank you for the interview.
This is the concluding installment of an exclusive interview with the ambassador. To read Part 1, click here.