SINGAPORE - Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the upgrading of the Singapore consulate in Batam to a consulate-general reflected the special relationship between the Republic and the Riau Islands province, or KEPRI .
"Singapore and KEPRI have a special relationship. This is the part of Indonesia that is closest to Singapore, both geographically and in spirit," he said on Wednesday (Aug 30) when officiating the Batam mission.
"And there have been frequent exchanges. The fact that you can take a 40min or hour-long ferry ride between Singapore and KEPRI means that there is always a frequent level of exchanges, both at the people-to-people as well as at the leadership level, he said, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"At the people-to-people level, there is a very high intensity of visitors - some one million tourists from Singapore visited KEPRI last year. I am sure this number will go up even further as we improve connectivity between KEPRI and Singapore," he said.
"Because we are committed to doing more, we decided to upgrade our consulate, and that's why I'm here this morning," he added.
Singapore has also upgraded its consulate in Medan, North Sumatra province, to a consulate-general, with the ceremony celebrating the move officiated on Tuesday (Aug 29) by Dr Balakrishnan.
He said Singapore is KEPRI's largest investor in terms of the total stock of investments, with companies involved not only in the traditional industries like electronics, but also in new and emerging fields like the digital sector.
Singapore and Indonesia are set to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic relations on Sept 7.
Speaking about bilateral ties between the two neighbouring countries, Dr Balakrishnan said: "Relations between the Republic of Indonesia and Singapore are longstanding, stable, good, and deep. It is a partnership based on mutual trust, and a commitment to look forward to the future and all we can achieve."
He said President Joko Widodo will visit Singapore on Sept 7 for the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat, where he and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will discuss plans for the future.
Dr Balakrishnan was on a two-day visit since Tuesday (Aug 29) to Indonesia where he was hosted to lunch by KEPRI Governor Nurdin Basirun and launched the RISING50 Singapore-KEPRI Photo Exhibition.
The Minister also had a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Batam to discuss the leaders' retreat in Singapore in September.