Jakarta. Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Indonesia, Askhat Orazbay, on Wednesday (11/10) inaugurated the launch of the Indonesia-Kazakhstan Friendship Club, which seeks to strengthen people-to-people relations and build stronger cooperation, including in trade, culture and tourism.
"Due to the lack of a relationship in the past, our people don’t have much information about Indonesia, and Indonesians don’t have much information about Kazakhstan. We want to fill this gap and try to build relations from different segments of society," Orazbay said during the club's first meeting in Jakarta.
The club seeks to both facilitate and expand interaction between people and businesses from the two countries and will be coordinated by the Kazakhstan embassy in Indonesia.
According to Foster Gultom, former Indonesian ambassador to Kazakhstan who was appointed as honorary chairman of the club during the launch, it is important to begin asking "how we can collectively further closer ties between Indonesia and Kazakhstan."
Diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Kazakhstan were established in 1993. In 2015, bilateral trade between the two countries was valued at $49.9 million.
Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited the decline in global economic growth in 2016 as a contributor to the decline of bilateral trade that year, as well as the lack of developed transport-logistics routes.
Orazbay said people are skeptical about diversifying Indonesia-Kazakhstan trade because of issues with logistics, hindering larger or heavier products from being transported easily.
While there are many Indonesian products that Orazbay views as having a potential to thrive in Kazakhstan – such as furniture – people have yet to tap this opportunity.
"The question is how to show these products, how to make them available in the market," Orazbay said.
Establishing a direct flight between Jakarta and Astana may well be in the future of Indonesia-Kazakhstan relations, as more frequent high-level visits have taken place in the past year.
Last month, Vice President Jusuf Kalla visited Kazakhstan, where he held meetings with Kazakhstan’s leaders, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev, as well as the country’s chairman of senate of the parliament, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Orazbay also said that Tokayev is due for a visit to Jakarta in November.
During his meeting with Nazarbayev, Kalla discussed Indonesia’s presence and contribution to the upcoming Astana International Financial Center, which will serve as a regional financial hub covering Central Asia, the Middle East, West China and Europe.
In particular, Islamic banks in Indonesia received an invitation from Nazarbayev to work together, as Kazakhstan seeks to learn more from countries who have developed this banking system, including the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Indonesia.
With a total population of around 17.8 million, Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country and the strongest performing economy in Central Asia thanks to its thriving oil and gas industry.