Why It Matters

Celebrating ties with Indonesia

The year-long series of commemorative activities planned by Singapore and Indonesia to celebrate the golden jubilee of their diplomatic ties, with the tag RISING50, is a plus for both countries.

Indonesia is a big and important neighbour that is the top source of visitors to Singapore. Last year, there were 2.89 million visitors from Indonesia.

And with over 250 million people in Indonesia, opportunities abound for Singapore businesses.

At the same time, Singapore is Indonesia's top investor, with US$9.2 billion (S$13.1 billion) worth of investments there last year.

These are among factors binding both neighbours and, at a time of global upheaval, they will further fuel a relationship that looks set to endure - and flourish.

The two countries are also united by a common world view, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said last week alongside his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.

Both nations are founding members of Asean, and key believers in strengthening the grouping's unity and centrality. Both are also staying the course in their quest for integration and shared opportunity.

In business, new possibilities are on the cards, thanks to avenues such as the joint Kendal Industrial Park in Semarang, launched last November, and the planned Indonesia-Singapore Business Council.

Underscoring this relationship is a deep well of trust that has made milestone agreements possible. These include the ratification of a treaty demarcating maritime boundaries in the eastern part of the Strait of Singapore, which Ms Retno called a "special gift" for the countries' golden jubilee.

The relationship, however, has not always been smooth sailing, with tensions over issues like the haze. But, as Ms Retno noted, problems do not "hold hostage" the generally upbeat state of bilateral ties.

The ups and downs give a poignancy to the RISING50 celebrations. They provide a golden opportunity as well for both countries to take stock of how far they have come and, in paying tribute to the ties that bind, to look at how they can move ahead together and bring their relationship to new heights.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'Celebrating ties with Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe