One of the astounding diplomatic successes in the relations among Association of South-East Asian (ASEAN) members is the Indonesia-Vietnam friendship. President Ho Chi Minh and President Soekarno are two leaders who have laid the foundations for friendly relations between Vietnam and Indonesia. Since then, this relationship has been maintained and developed by generations of leaders and the people of the two countries Since then, the two countries in Southeast Asia have been continuously optimizing efforts to maintain and develop strategic relations in the region. Since the 2013 bilateral strategic partnership, both have seen challenges to their relations but that has not stopped them from moving closer.

Keeping up with the trend, Vietnam’s newly appointed Ambassador to Indonesia Ta Van Thong recently met with Indonesia’s top officials including the Chief of the Presidential Staff Moeldoko, and others. The Ambassador praised Indonesia’s handling of the Pandemic and expressed Vietnam’s support and confidence as Indonesia is set to host the Group of 20 Summit and assume the next ASEAN presidency.
Both countries established formal diplomatic relations in 1955 and continued traditions of exchange of visits of highest officials since. In 2012, both the countries set up the first Joint Commission for bilateral cooperation in Hanoi. During ex- President of Vietnam, Truong Tan Sang’s visit to Indonesia, the bilateral relations have been upgraded to the level of strategic partnership. Even during the pandemic onslaught, leaders of both countries hold phone talks and discussed cooperation on the challenge too. In 2014, Indonesia’s marine policy of “Sink the Vessels” where it destroyed any illegal fishing vessels challenged the closing relations. But it took underlying trust, symbolism and crafty diplomacy to keep the relations getting stronger. Both the countries have shown a proclivity to build close ties vis-à-vis defence and cooperation in multilateral forums. Both countries are also positive towards border negotiations concerning the maritime boundary and desire a permanent resolution of their disputes.

In 2018, both the countries strengthened their relations in economy, trade and investment; and since then the relations have picked up steam. The relationship has broadened to include mutual topics such as ASEAN’s future, cooperation with other countries in the South China Sea, etc. The economic trade between both countries has grown above 10 billion dollars which is admirable.

As Ambassador Thong’s statements suggest, Vietnam is according high priority to the relationship with Indonesia post the opening of the economy after the devastating impact of the pandemic on the economies of both countries. He also announced that direct flights are set to resume to Bali and Jakarta which will facilitate favourable conditions for Vietnamese to travel to Indonesia. In a similar mood, Indonesian officials echo the same sentiments as they hope that the bilateral relationship will help deepen the comprehensive partnership and promote peace, stability and prosperity of ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific.

In the upcoming days, both the countries will find extensive challenges to cooperation such as the negotiations of the common code of conduct of the South China Sea. The geopolitics of the region is fast turning into a showdown as countries like the United States and China engage in serious diplomacy over the South China Sea conflict. Other factors which will need cooperation over the long term include the economic recovery, absorption of western businesses migrating out of China currently and mitigation of conflict over migrants.

As part of ASEAN, both the countries will have a multitude of issues such as fishing, overlapping maritime boundaries, and security issues like Myanmar junta to deal with. Given the outstanding record of cooperation between both countries, there is little doubt that they will find a way to resolve the conflict.

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