Armenia is a relatively new face on the Indonesian diplomatic scene, having opened an embassy here in late 2013. As a whole, Indonesian awareness and interaction with part of the former Soviet republic has been minimal at best. Armenian Ambassador to Indonesia Anna Aghadjanian talked to The Jakarta Post’s Dylan Amirio on Armenia’s determination to promote more visible ties with Indonesia.
Question: What can Armenia do to boost its presence in Indonesia’s diplomatic scope?
Answer: It’s not really about boosting Armenian presence but rather letting Indonesians know that we exist. I understand that Armenia has not been part of Indonesia’s main geopolitical focus. Therefore, my task is to raise awareness in both countries about each other. We have been working with various government institutions and academia to discover opportunities and trying to create cooperation at regional levels.
As a whole, what can Armenia offer Indonesia and vice versa?
The main Indonesian imports are coffee and rattan furniture, which are popular because of our long nice summers. Our trade volume is not big but we are also researching the distance our products need to travel […] and are still looking at other things that can be traded as well. There are certain fields that are currently being discussed.
With a growing middle class in Indonesia, what tourism potentials can be offered?
Armenia offers a rich, diverse history and fascinating nature, being a small and mountainous country. Our culture had been historically centered on Christianity due to the fact that [the Kingdom of] Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD.
Besides old churches, monasteries and temples that are preserved and still standing, you can also trace the heritage of different cultures and empires, including the Byzantine, Arab, Ottoman, Roman etc.
How is Indonesia perceived by Armenian eyes and ears?
Bali is already familiar to Armenian ears, but as much as it happens with many of my colleagues from foreign nations here, I still hear a lot of that “Bali is Indonesia” thing.
I would say the older generations of Armenians are more familiar with Indonesia due to its history with the Soviet Union. But the younger generation knows more about the tourism.
However, not many Armenians visit Indonesia mainly because of technical visa problems. Indonesia has no embassy in Yerevan, and those who wish to get one need to cross over to the Indonesian Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, so it’s not a conducive process. Meanwhile, Indonesians are able to obtain a visa on arrival upon reaching Armenia.
What other bilateral issues can be discussed between the two countries?
We are trying to promote legislative cooperation because they are crucial in representing their people. Legislative diplomacy has a more widespread constituency and can sometimes be more important than the diplomacy I do.
Armenia went through reform after its independence from the Soviet Union and Indonesia was also reforming itself in its own way. We’re going through the same process and trying to achieve the same goals. One of my plans is to conduct a meeting with members of the legislature or academicians [from the two countries] to compare their experiences.
Aside from that, we must focus on people-to-people cooperation. No matter how cliché that may sound, but it is the truth.