South Caucasus shows big interest in RI
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The South Caucasus, a small geopolitical region located between Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia, has been showing a lot of interest in Indonesia, the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, in recent years.
It all began in 2006, when oil-rich Azerbaijan, the biggest country in the South Caucasus, opened its embassy in Jakarta, the first in Southeast Asian region.
“Indonesia, as the largest Muslim nation, a leading ASEAN member and responsible player in global and regional affairs, occupies a significant place in Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. In 2006, we opened our embassy in Jakarta,” Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told The Jakarta Post in Baku sometime back.
Then Georgia, not the US state Georgia, announced in June 2012 that it would soon open an embassy in Jakarta, the first Georgian Embassy in Southeast Asia. Why Indonesia?
“Indonesia is one of the biggest democracies in the world, a member of the G20 and the leader of ASEAN. Friendship with Indonesia would be very beneficial to Georgia,” Georgian foreign minister said during his first ever visit to Indonesia in late June this year.
Now Armenia, the smallest country with the lowest GDP in the South Caucasus, wants to follow its peers. Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday for a two-day visit to boost bilateral ties and announced that his country would open its embassy in Jakarta in 2012.
“Next year we will open Armenian Embassy in Jakarta. We don’t want to just develop economic relations but a wider relationship,” Nalabandian said in Jakarta on Wednesday.
While commenting on Armenian and Indonesian relations, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty said neither country ever had any problems in their friendly diplomatic ties for the last 20 years.
“The relationship with Armenia reflecting our global outlook. Recently, several countries such as Belarus, Georgia and Armenia have decided to open embassies. It shows our foreign policy is increasingly appreciated by the world,” Marty said.
It also perfectly fits into Indonesia’s policy of “zero enemies and a million friends”. But in terms of economic prospects, it may not be that promising except in the case of Azerbaijan from whom Indonesia buys oil in large quantities. In 2011, Indonesia bought US$1.76 billion of crude oil from Azerbaijan. Indonesian primary products — such as palm oil, tea, coffee, paper, rubber, tires, garments, shoes, furniture — are attractive to countries in the South Caucasus.
In an effort to deal with the growing slump in exports to the US, Europe and other traditional markets, Indonesia now wants to find non-traditional markets for its huge exports. As part of this campaign, Indonesia has been focusing on former Soviet Union countries. It is in this perspective that these growing relations with the South Caucasus must be seen.
The South Caucasus mainly produces oil and gas, manganese ore, tea, citrus fruits and wine. The three countries — Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia — have a combined population of around 15 million people and a combined GDP (power purchasing parity) of around $135 billion. The Muslim majority Azerbaijan itself has a GDP of $93.02 billion.