On the 198th anniversary of the independence of Brazil, it seems pertinent to recall the words of Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek to president Sukarno in May 1959, during the latter’s historical visit to Brasilia, the soon-to-be inaugurated capital of Brazil:
“[…] You, Excellency, were and still are the builder of a new nationality. By force of your command and through your obstinate belief, ancient peoples have integrated themselves into a new and vigorous state, unified in its diversity, passionate about solving its internal problems and fully conscious of its future leadership role in international affairs. No other place in the world is more appropriate than here, Brasilia, President Sukarno, for me to congratulate you for your efforts toward national integration.”
More than six decades later, those words remain applicable, for it will soon be Indonesia’s turn to deal with the Herculean task of relocating the capital city, as Brazilians did in the late 1950s.
In fact, the pursuit of national integration and development is one of several similarities shared by our peoples and histories. Brazil and Indonesia’s other shared characteristics suggest ample opportunities for further cooperation. Both countries pride themselves on being among the largest democracies in the world; both stand out in their respective regions for their territorial dimensions, demographics and economic output; and both have multiethnic and multicultural populations.
Brazil and Indonesia have the most important tropical forests in the world, which harbor rich biodiversity and abundant natural resources, and share the enormous task and responsibility – of which both are perfectly aware – of promoting sustainable development while enforcing environmental legislation and controlling illegal logging and deforestation in large areas – in the case of the Brazilian Amazonian region, of more than 5 million square kilometers.
Similarities also exist between the positions adopted by Brazil and Indonesia in international fora. It should be highlighted that both countries have traditionally supported multilateralism with a focus on development and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Indeed, a 2012 statistical survey showed that the two countries had voted the same way on 91 percent of the resolutions presented to the United Nations General Assembly. Such a tradition may prove particularly useful during the present pandemic and its uncertainties.
On the other hand, it definitely seems necessary to further promote and facilitate contacts between producers and exporters in both countries so that the actual competitiveness and potential of the agricultural and industrial sectors of the largest economies of MERCOSUR (South American trade bloc) and ASEAN are fairly reflected in their bilateral trade, lately of only about US$3.2 billion a year. I am, in collaboration with my dear colleague the Indonesian ambassador in Brasilia, committed to this task, having in mind mutual advantages for our countries, their businesses and consumers.
As I recall once again the historic visit of the first Asian head of state to Brasilia, I cannot help sharing a tale about President Sukarno’s experience in the new Brazilian capital. While on a sightseeing flight in a helicopter over the construction sites, gazing at the wilderness of the Cerrado, the typical vegetation of central-western Brazil, President Juscelino suddenly handed a large wooden stick to his Indonesian counterpart who, bewildered, asked him what it was for. “Just look down carefully and choose a site for the future Embassy of Indonesia,” said Juscelino. “Throw the stick and, wherever it falls, there it shall be built”. And so it was done (the embassy was built on plot number 20).
As is the case for many tales from times long past, we cannot attest to its complete veracity, but nevertheless, we can certainly conclude that relations between Brazil and Indonesia, formally established in 1953, are all about trust and cooperation among equals.
Brazilian ambassador to Indonesia
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.