02/25/2017, 15.40
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Oil. Pilgrimage, and Saudi king’s visit to Indonesia

by Mathias Hariyadi

On 1 March, King Salman will arrive in Jakarta on an official visit. Breaking with Protocol, President Widodo will welcome him in person at the airport. The Saudi monarch will travel with an entourage of about 1,500 people, including government ministers and princes. The visit includes a short vacation in Bali.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Saudi King Salman will meet with Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo during his official visit to the Southeast Asian country set to start on 1 March.

The two leaders will discuss, among other things, Saudi investments in Indonesia, particularly in the oil sector, permits for the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah and the promotion of a moderate Islam to counter extremist and jihadist movements at the local and international levels.

The Saudi king will be accompanied by a large delegation: 1,500 people, including ten government ministers and 15 princes. After a few days in Jakarta, where he will meet with the country’s highest civil and religious authorities, King Salman will travel to the island of Bali for a short period of vacation and relaxation.

The main topic of discussion for Saudi Arabia will be its largescale investments in the construction of fuel storage depots in Celica, central Java. For Indonesia, hajj permits will top the list. For some time, the latter have been a source of friction with the Saudis.

Every year thousands of people are excluded from the quota reserved for Indonesians who want to go on the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, one of the five pillars of Islam. Pilgrims can wait up to five and even ten years before they can make the trip, despite completing all the formalities and paying the fees to visit Islam’s most sacred site.

The importance of King Salman’s visit and the special attention given by Jakarta to the Saudi monarch is evidenced by the fact that, breaking with protocol, President Widodo will personally welcome the distinguished guest at an Indonesian Air Force base in East Jakarta.

One advance Saudi party is already in Jakarta and another one is in Bali to work out the last details for King Salman’s arrival and accommodations. A special elevator will be used to allow the king to leave the plane on his arrival in Indonesia.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has long maintained close ties with Saudi Arabia. The country’s version of Islam is moderate, despite some episodes of sectarian intolerance and violence. However, a more radical version of Islam is emerging in some parts of the country, in many cases thanks to Saudi funding for Wahhabi-inspired schools.

For Foreign Ministry spokesperson Armanatha Nasir, the type of reception reserved for the Saudi king “is normal”, including the presence of President Widodo at the airport. "We are the most populous Muslim nation in the world and Saudi Arabia is the holy land for Muslims around the world, including Indonesian Muslims," he explained.

The promotion of moderate Islam will be one of the most important issues at the centre of talks between the two sides, coupled with the problem of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and related residence permits.

The official visit, which follows Widodo’s visit to Saudi Arabia in September 2015, will include an address by King Salman to the Indonesian parliament. 

This is the first time that a Saudi monarch visits Indonesia in almost 50 years. The last time was in 1970 when Suharto was president.

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