Indonesia: a nation of diversity and cultural riches

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Both Indonesian and Pakistani cultures emphasize respect for elders and the importance of family values. Therefore Pakistani visitors feel at home while being in Indonesia and vice versa

Editorial

Ansar M Bhatti

INDONESIA, a country located in Southeast Asia, which happens to be the world’s largest archipelago, stands out for its vibrant society, rich culture and extremely hospitable people. It is the warmth of the Indonesians and the breathtaking natural wonders that make it the most sought-after tourist attraction. Much has changed in the largest Muslim country since 2019 when I last visited the country. Since Indonesia was frequented by millions of tourists therefore it was also hit-hard by the Covid pandemic like other countries that used to welcome huge influx of visitors. But hats off to the Indonesian government that because of its tireless efforts tourists flow has resumed almost to full scale.

Courtesy the Indonesian embassy in Islamabad the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, I had a chance to again visit the wonderful Indonesia together with few other colleagues as part of the FAMTRIP 2023. After staying in Jakarta for a few days our delegation then left for Lombok – a place that appears to be top on the agenda of the Tourism Ministry, which is being developed and offered to the international as well domestic tourists as an exotic destination packed with spell-binding attractions.

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Ni Made Ayu Marthini Deputy Minister for Marketing, Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy while talking to our delegation said that their primary focus was on developing 10 Tourism Priority Destinations in the period of 2023-24. She said, ‘currently, we are highly promoting our 10 Tourism Priority Destinations, namely Lake Toba in North Sumatera, Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, Likupang in North Sulawesi, Tanjung Kelayang in Bangka Belitung, Bromo-Tengger-Semeru in East Java, Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi, Morotai Island in North Maluku and Raja Ampat in West Papua. The first five aforementioned destinations are designated as Tourism Super Priority Destinations, she informed.

In 2019 among other places I also visited Labuan Bajo, which is yet another attraction that offers stunning white-sand beaches and enchanting blue water snorkeling and surfing opportunities. Komodo Island is also located nearby, which is part of the Komodo National Park. It is famous for its population of Komodo dragons, which are the largest living lizards on Earth. Indonesia takes great pride in preserving its cultural heritage. The country is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Indonesian and Pakistani cuisines have similarities, such as the use of aromatic spices and flavors. Both countries have their versions of rice dishes, curries, and grilled meats, although the specific ingredients and cooking techniques may vary. Both Indonesian and Pakistani cultures emphasize respect for elders and the importance of family values. Therefore Pakistani visitors feel at home while being in Indonesia and vice versa. The Indonesian embassy in Islamabad spearheaded by Ambassador Adam Tugio has published a few books on Indonesian cuisines and similarities between the two cultures. These books provide a deep insight into culinary and cultural aspects of bilateral relations.

All said and done, there are certain areas that pose a challenge to the Indonesia government. Rapid urbanization, environmental issues, and socio-economic disparities are among the issues the country is working to address. However, Indonesia’s government and civil society organizations are actively promoting sustainable tourism, environmental conservation, and community empowerment initiatives to ensure a brighter future for the nation.

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The Deputy Minister for Marketing during her interview hoped to see more and more investors and tourists come to Indonesia. After visiting the newly-introduced tourist attractions I can say on authority that these places offer potential business avenues, especially the Labuan Bajo and Lombok islands. The government extends certain business incentives to investors that make the prospects even brighter. There are some hiccups though, which if addressed, can ensure enhanced flow of tourists and businessmen to Indonesia. As informed by the Pakistani embassy in Jakarta, many Pakistani visitors had to face problems at the airports at the immigration desks. In some cases visitors were even denied entry. The Indonesian authorities are aware of such incidents and assured to overcome this issue sooner rather than later. They said that it was not a Pakistan-specific problem and some drastic steps had already been taken to improve working of the immigration counters.

To Sum up, the Presidential election in Indonesia is going to take place in February 2024. Three contenders are in the run. The incumbent President Joko Widodo is not in the game as law does not allow him to stand for the third time. Interestingly, some of his cohorts suggested him to amend the Constitution to be eligible for a third term nevertheless he outright declined this proposal, which unequivocally shows his character and commitment to the rule of law and upholding of the Constitution.

Obviously, countries that do not respect their Constitution have to face stupendous challenges i.e political instability; economic consequences; corruption and crime; weak adherence to the rule of law; human rights violations and international reputation. 

If Indonesia is making progress by leaps and bounds, among other things, political harmony appears to be a key reason. President Jokowi brought his arch rival Prabowo Subianto into his cabinet as defence minister who had finished No 2 in the 2019 Presidential election, a move  analysts say had helped heal divisions. It is because of the all-inclusive approach of the sitting President that contributed greatly towards achieving political harmony and stability.