Khartoum, Jakarta (sudanow.info/SUNA)- In the context of a visit arrangement by the Indonesian Embassy in Khartoum for a media delegation on November 21-28 to all green and attractive Indonesia, Sudanow.info met the Sudanese Ambassador there, Abdul Rahim Al-Siddeik.
Speaking on the historic ties between the Sudan and Indonesia and the active drive being launched nowadays for reactivation of those relations and transforming them into agreements of cooperation in the various spheres, Siddeik gave Sudanow.info the following interview:
Sudanow.info/SUNA, Mr ambasador, will you please give us a briefing on the relationship between the two countries, how and when they began and where are they standing now?
The Ambassador: The beginning was a popular one with the arrival here by Sheikh Ahmed Sorkati al-Ansary, a Sudanese from Dongola, who was sent by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to disseminate the Islamic faith in this country.. Sorkati established the religious guidance schools which still exists as the third largest non-governmental establishment of its kind in Indonesia.
The relationship developed with the visit in 1955 by late leader Ismail al-Azhary to Indonesia for participation in Bandung Conference of the non-aligned countries. On that occasion late Indonesian leader Ahmed Sukarno and Azhary hoisted a white flag on which the name f the Sudan was written. Following his return home, Azhary declared the independence of the Sudan in the parliament. It was Indonesia that encouraged the Sudan to take this step by insisting at the conference on placing the name of the Sudan among the independent countries despite objection by Britain which demanded that the Sudan’s name be included among the non-independent countries. After that, popular contacts followed in succession and groups of immigrants arrived in Indonesia from the Sudan.
The formal diplomatic ties between the two countries were established early with late Salih Bashmool having been the first Sudanese ambassador to Jakarta. The relations developed over the years until they have now reached the point of taking off towards wider horizons.
The two leaderships of the Sudan and Indonesia have recently made more serious steps on the sidelines of the Islamic summit conference which was held in Cairo January, last year, when they agreed on determining the priorities of cooperation and expansion in the fields of food security, energy, education and training.
Sudanow.info/SUNA How is the bilateral cooperation faring now?
Ambassador:There is now cooperation between the two countries’ ministries of Agriculture with an agreement concluded for cultivation 80,000 feddans (acres) of rice in the Sudan and preparations are presently underway for establishing a model rice farm. As regards the food security, there is cooperation in the animal resources sector (both fish and livestock). During a successful visit by the Indonesian Animal Resources Minister to the Sudan last June, an agreement was concluded for revitalizing the bilateral cooperation, including provision of training programmes for the Sudan on fisheries.
Sudanow.info/SUNA Energy is the key motivator of economy. Is there coordination between the two countries in the vital sphere?
Ambassador: Yes. There is cooperation at present and is expected to develop further in the future. An Indonesian government company is presently engaged in oil operations in bloc 13 where the latest results indicate the prospects of an abundant yield that is expected to reach an average 60,000 bpd. Moreover, several Indonesian companies visited the Sudan and showed willingness for investment in the country by making acceptable offers in different fields. One of those companies almost obtained a concession for operating with SUDAPET in the field of petroleum.
Sudanow.info/SUNA How about the balance of trade between the two countries?
Ambassador: It is still in favor of Indonesia; through we have taken two steps for striking an equilibrium in the balance of trade between the two countries which presently is about 700 million dollars. Indonesia is trying strenuously to compete with the big powers by developing its industries and they are planning to have a strong economy over the next 10 years. The bilateral animal resources cooperation includes exportation of Sudanese meats to Indonesia. Integration in this respect could be achieved between the two countries as the Sudan enjoys a tremendous animal wealth while Indonesia, with its dense population, offers a profitable market. Moreover, there is a trilateral cooperation between the Sudan, Indonesia and Malaysia known as Global Halal Tiub for meats products.
Sudanow.info/SUNA How is the mining cooperation going on between the two countries going on?
Ambassador: The Sudan possesses tremendous mineral resources while Indonesia is advanced in this field. An Indonesian company is at present negotiating a deal for the purchase of gold with the Bank of Sudan. Another Indonesian company has been granted a concession for mining in the Sudan as part of a mining project of 10 million dollars fully provided by the scholars development society.
Sudanow.info/SUNA What about the bilateral cultural cooperation?
Ambassador: The Sudan has long been offering Indonesia scholarships for Arabic language and Koranic studies. These scholarships have now redoubled and spaces in the Sudanese universities have been expanded for admitting Indonesian students. For its part, Indonesia has offered this year more than 100 scholarships for graduate and post-graduate studies in the field of information. A memorandum of understanding has recently been concluded between the Sudan News Agency and INTARA which will shortly be brought in effect.
Sudanow.info/SUNA How did you find the Indonesian community during your presence in Indonesia?
Ambassador: The Indonesian community is very powerful with a population of about 260 million and big non-governmental societies like the Scholars Development Society which comprises 130 million members and the Mohammadans society of a 70 million membership, etc.
These societies have alleviated a huge education services burden from the State as they are running numerous non-governmental universities and thousands of schools and religious institutes and Arabic language centers which are established by the community and the State is only responsible for the planning.
Sudanow.info/SUNA What is the situation of the Sudanese community there?
Ambassador: It consists of several families and students numbering about 100 persons and are expected to increase in number as the Indonesian government is expected to number of scholarships for Sudanese students. The Sudanese community has established for itself a club two years ago which was the first of its kind to be established by the Arab and Islamic communities in Southeast Asia. The inauguration ceremony was attended by several resident Arab and African ambassadors. It organizes several activities and celebrations gathering the members of the community.
Sudanow.info/SUNA: Sudanese youths have of late embarked on illegal immigration to Australia along Indonesian coasts on the Pacific Ocean and many of them confronted risks and, sometimes, death. How do you comment?
Ambassador: The Sudanese law does not forbid a legal immigration as every Sudanese has the right to travel whenever and wherever he intends. But problems arise when the person opts for illegal immigration. Unfortunately such youths are deceived into believing that the way is safe and secure, but, on the contrary, it is very risky and, moreover, such an immigrant subjects himself to legal accountability in accordance with the Indonesian immigration laws.
We have launched an extensive media campaign cautioning the youths against falling prey to the smuggling gangs and to adverse consequences. The head and members of the Sudanese community are exerting commendable efforts in cooperation with the embassy for controlling this practice.
Sudanow.info/SUNA: How far is the bilateral cooperation in the cultural and social spheres?
Ambassador: We are now considering the Indonesian non-governmental societies experience to benefit from. This idea was adopted by (former) Vice President Al-Hajj Adam Yusuf and a Sudanese delegation arrived here and we organized for them meetings with all relevant societies. The delegation submitted a report containing recommendations the most important of which provided for supporting the Sudanese teachers in Indonesia. An approval was made for opening a Sudanese school in Jakarta to be sponsored by the African Council for Private Education.
Sudanow.info/SUNA: What are the prospects of activation of tourism between the two countries, bearing in mind that Indonesia is a leading tourist country?
Ambassador: The most effective way for activation of cooperation in the field of tourism is exchange of visits by delegations and concerned officials. Some efforts in this connection are being exerted at present. The visit by the Sudanese media delegation will have an immense impact in this respect. Moreover, a similar Indonesian media delegation is expected to pay a similar visit to the Sudan. In Indonesia there exists what is known as “the Sharia Tourism” in which Islamic teachings are observed. There is also “the Internal Tourism which is highly profitable for the State which, for this reason, encourages the Indonesians to visit the tourist attractions in Indonesia to enjoy its exquisite nature.
Sudanow.info/SUNA: Is there any coordination between the two countries on international questions?
Ambassador: Yes, there is a close coordination and all the Indonesian stances towards the Sudan are positive, the latest of which was voting by Indonesia for the Sudan during discussions by the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva. Moreover, Indonesia participates in UNAMID forces in al Fashir, North Darfur State. Despite Sudan’s reservations about those forces, I must commend the Indonesian contingent which I visited when I was Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Peace Department. I found out that the Indonesian peacekeepers there were organized and were popular among the Sudanese people there. They built a mosque in which they share prayers with the natives and they also planted trees in the surrounding area.
Sudanow.info/SUNA: you have recently been nominated as non-resident ambassador to Singapore and also likely to be nominated as non-resident ambassador to Australia. What gains are expected from this nomination?
Ambassador: Certainly, there are several gain such as the numerous scholarships Singapore offers the Sudan in several fields, including petroleum, resolution of conflicts, and business administration. Unfortunately, those scholarships are not made use of in a proper way and we are now coordinating for gaining the maximum benefits. We should also take in consideration that Singapore is the seat of the international council for petroleum and gas and the Sudan can benefit from this situation.
As for Australia, we have plans for cooperation with that country in mining so as to benefit from its extensive experience in this field which is crucial to the Sudan’s future economy.