The Dynamic of Bilateral Relationship between the Republic of Indonesia and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Field of Migrant Workers

This proceeding is written at 2018 by Strategic Networking and Cooperation Director of InMind Institute Muhammad Ibrahim Hamdani, S.I.P., M.Si. and Abdul Muta’ali, M.A., M.I.P., Ph.D. a lecturer from Department of Politics Universitas Indonesia (UI) and accessible on

The bilateral relationship between The Republic of Indonesia (RI) and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) faces some serious challenges in economic and political fields. For example, there are so many Indonesian Migrant Workers (IMW) in Saudi Arabia who receiving some serious problems. These situations forced the Government of Indonesia to impose a moratorium policy for IMW, who work as domestic worker, to Saudi Arabia since seven years ago, 11-th August 2011.

Besides that, there is high gap between the total export value of Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, mainly dominated by non-oil and gas products, and the total import value from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, mainly the oil and gas products. These conditions cause Indonesia still not considered important by the KSA government.

This research aims to discuss the dynamics of bilateral relation between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia ineconomic and political fields. Especially, since the post-honorary visit of King Faisal until King Salman’s honorary visit to Indonesia. Then, the analysis knifes which used in this research are the concept of interdependence from Umar Suryadi Bakri and the strong state theory from Francis Fukuyama.

Based on the data from Migrant Care Indonesia and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, a number of IMW have been executed by the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Although the Indonesian government has imposed a moratorium policy of sending IMW in domestic sector to Saudi Arabia, the death penalty still happened. The victims of the death penalty were Ruyati in 2011, Siti Zainab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim in 2015, and also Mochammad Zaini Misrin Arsyad in 2018.

Based on data from Indonesian Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), Indonesia is also continuously experiencing a deficit in import-export trade transactions with Saudi Arabia. Recorded in 2016, Indonesia experienced a trade deficit with Saudi Arabia as much as US $ 1.39 billion or around Rp 18.5 trillion. This deficit figure has increased compared with the year before in 2015 with deficit of US $ 1.36 billion. In 2016, the total value of Indonesia’s exports to Saudi Arabia reached US $ 1.33 billion. In contrast, the total value of Indonesia’s imports from Saudi Arabia actually reached US $ 3.42 billion.

Moreover, there is a span of 47 years between the honorary visit of King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud to Indonesia, on 10-13 June 1970, until the honorary visit of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud on 1-12 March 2017. Even the KSA government only put two attaches at the KSA Embassy in Jakarta, The Religious Affairs Attaché and The Military Affairs Attaché.

On the contrary, every President of RI had at least once official visit to Saudi Arabia. The RI government also put six attaches at the Embassy of RI in Riyadh: Attache of Politic, Attache of Defense, Attache of Manpower, Attache of Trade, Attache of Education, and Attache of Police. There is also Attache of Legal at the General Consulate of RI in Jeddah. These conditions make Indonesia consider Saudi Arabia as a very important country for its foreign policy.

The results of this study are also useful to evaluate the extent to which primordial factors, between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, play important role in strengthening the bilateral relationship of both countries. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and also the largest number of pilgrims (Hajj) in the world.

On the other side, Saudi Arabia is a country that serves two of the most sacred cities for Muslims around the world, Mecca al Mukarramah and Medina al Munawwarah. Even the KSA Government is one of the Middle Eastern countries who recognize the independence and sovereignty of Indonesia since the beginning, on the 8-th Muharram 1367 Hijriah (H) or 21-st November 1947.

During the hajj season of 2017, the total number of Hajj pilgrims from Indonesia amounts to 221,000 people. It is the symbol of Indonesia as the largest Muslim country in the world. Based on the 2010 Indonesian population census data published by the Indonesian Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), it is noted that the number of Indonesian Muslim population is 207.176.162 inhabitants. This number reached 87.18 percent of the total population of Indonesia.

Furthermore, compared to the honorary visit of King Faisal 47 years ago, the honorary visit of King Salman in 2017, for 12 days, looked so spectacular. There are 25 princes of the royal family of KSA who followed this honorary visit, together with the other 14 ministers of KSA. In fact, the entire of King Salman’s entourage in this visit amounted to 1.500 people, including journalists, entrepreneurs, interpreters, and other professional workers. In addition, this honorary visit also resulted in a number of agreements between the Government of RI and KSA. They are the signing of six Memorandums of Understanding (MoU), three Cooperation Programs, one Cooperation Agreement, and one Joint Declaration.

From those six MoU, one of them is the pledge from Government of KSA to contribute USD 1 billion, through Saudi Fund, to finance some development projects in Indonesia. The Government of KSA also decided to include a worth USD 6 oil refinery project in Indonesia. Besides that, there are transactions worth USD 2.4 million which signed separately by business sector of private enterprises from Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

Viewed from a geopolitical standpoint, RI and KSA positions are very strategic in its region, Indonesia in Southeast Asia and Saudi Arabia in West Asia or the Middle East. Both coutries are being very active in many international organizations such as United Nations (UN), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Asian African Conference (AAC), Non Alignment Movement (NAM), Asociation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF), and Group of 20 (G-20). RI and KSA also have no diplomatic relation with Israel. It happend since the zionist country invaded Palestine’s and seized its
independence and sovereignty.

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