Jakarta. Britain is seeking to offer its maritime, defense and space technology during British Prime Minister David Cameron’s official visit to Jakarta scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Indonesia kick starts Cameron’s first tour of Asia since his re-election in May.
“That is a very very important statement on our part. That is a deliberate choice. Because we believe Indonesia will be a key partner in the future. We believe Indonesia is one of those countries alongside India and China that will shape the Asian economy and the world’s economy for the 21st century,” Moazzam Malik, Britain’s Ambassador to Indonesia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Timor Leste, said in Jakarta on Sunday.
The British prime minister is scheduled to arrive in Jakarta on Monday and meet with President Joko Widodo in the afternoon.
Forging collaborations in the maritime sector will be among Britain’s primary focus during Cameron’s two-day visit to the capital, Malik said.
He assured that the European nation’s vast experience in developing maritime infrastructure would be a compatible fit to Joko’s ambitious plans to transform Indonesia into a global maritime fulcrum.
“President Jokowi has been giving signals that he wishes to see Indonesia emerge as a maritime nation,” Malik said. “The UK has a great deal of experience as an island nation ourselves and we are ready to share our maritime experience.”
Cameron will also be seeking to develop a maritime defense partnership with Indonesia following a “successful” meeting between British and Indonesian navy officials conducted in London last week.
“We agreed on measures to take it forward, and certainly again the UK has a fantastic defense industry [and] technology in the navy sector … Maritime defense is one of the areas that we want to cooperate [on],” Malik said.
In addition to proposing partnerships between the two nation’s defense and maritime sectors, the prime minister will also use this visit to offer Britain’s expertise in space technology, which could not only support the archipelago’s maritime defenses but also help “tackle illegal fishing, deforestation and climate change-related risks.”
The ambassador cited El Nino as an example, suggesting Indonesia could better prepare itself against the extreme weather phenomenon by tapping into satellite technology. El Nino is expected to hit the archipelago between July and November, bringing severe droughts along with it, threatening harvests and food security.
“This [space technology] is a scenario that will be an important area of our future cooperation,” Malik said.
He further offered Britain’s knowledge of utilizing public-private partnerships to support Indonesia’s infrastructure developments, saying the UK had implemented PPP schemes on a wide array of projects.
“We also have some of the world’s finest design and engineering [companies]. And the UK is ready to share that experience [with Indonesia],” Malik said.
Separately, the executive director of the Indonesian Center for Democracy Diplomacy and Defense Teuku Rezasyah commented that Cameron’s visit to Jakarta was prompted by Britain’s slowing economy and the investment opportunities Indonesia had to offer with Joko’s ambitious infrastructure plans.
“It looks like Britain doesn’t want to be defeated by its competitors such as Japan and China, which are currently competing for a multi-billion dollar railway development project in Indonesia,” Rezasyah told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.
He agreed that Britain’s advanced maritime expertise, particularly in defense, might have the most appeal to Indonesia, citing the archipelago’s aging marine radars and expired Exocet missiles as examples of what Indonesia needed to improve in its maritime defense system.
“Britain is very good in radar technology, and also at synergizing military and civilian radars,” Rezasyah said.
“It’s good that developed countries have responded to the president’s calls for foreign investment. Each [country] has its own strengths, so we have a wide selection of services to choose from,” he added.
Britain is currently the fifth largest foreign investor in Indonesia.
Malik said the country was looking to “maintain that record and build on it.”
Cameron is also scheduled to attend a business forum with the Indonesian business community during his two-day visit to Jakarta.
The prime minister will be accompanied by his trade, energy and economic ministers, as well as 30 British business leaders representing top global brands, including Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Surrey Satellite Technology, the Weir Group and the UK Higher Education International Unit.
On the joint fight against Islamic State and extremism
Malik said establishing cooperation to tackle terrorism and religious extremism, especially with the emergence of the extremist group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, was also high on the agenda.
“[IS] is a common enemy for Indonesia and for the UK, and for many others around the world. And we’re looking to see how we can cooperate with Indonesia and try to keep the risks of extremism and terrorism at bay,” the ambassador said.
Authorities estimate that approximately 500 Indonesian nationals have left for Syria and Iraq to join the IS.
In Britain, where the Muslim population is much smaller, the figure is slightly higher, according to Malik, although he stopped short of naming an exact number.
“So we have come to see how Indonesia is succeeding in keeping extremism at bay,” he said.
Cameron is scheduled to meet with Indonesia’s religious leaders to learn about their experience in dealing with extremism.
“Our prime minister and his delegation will be keen to learn from Indonesia’s strong record in maintaining tolerance. We’ll be keen to see how we can benefit from that experience. And we will be keen to encourage Indonesia to share that experience to a wider audience,” Malik said.
Rezasyah commented that Britain might want to learn from Indonesia about its soft approach in dealing with extremism and terrorism.
“Our method [of tackling terrorism] is different with that of Britain and the United States. They will annihilate even the smallest threat,” Rezasyah said. “As for us, our approach is to deal with the root cause of the problems, namely stupidity, poverty and extraordinary indoctrination from abroad.”
“Terrorism is also a form of criticism toward the world’s helplessness in dealing with the crises in the Middle East, the abnormal collapse of its regimes, and the United States’ involvements [in those crises],” he added.
Finally, the British PM will take steps toward strengthening his nation’s ties with the Asean by meeting with the Asean secretary general at the Asean secretariat in Jakarta.
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