The recent visit of Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to Tunisia and the meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the two nations held in Tunis in October 2017 has further strengthened the bilateral relations between the two. Both Indonesia and Tunisia have based their foreign policy ideals on the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement. Besides the Non-Aligned Movement, the two nations participate in other multilateral forums such as the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC).
Indonesian contacts with Tunisia predates the latter’s independence in 1956. The relations and cooperation between the two countries started with the visit of Tunisian freedom fighter Habib Bourguiba to Jakarta followed by the establishment of Tunisian independence representative office in the city in 1952 to lobby the Asian nations support for Tunisian independence.
Characters of the Tunisian independence movement were present at the Asian-African Conference in 1955, and then then Indonesia President Sukarno allowed the opening of Tunisia’s struggle for independence in Jakarta. Indonesia opened the Embassy in Tunis in 1960, which also marked the opening of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Tunisian Embassy in Jakarta opened on 14 October 1987.
The issue of democracy is an important highlight in Indonesia-Tunisia relations. Tunisia has high regards for the successful functioning of democracy in Indonesia. During the transition period in Tunisia, the Indonesian government through Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) held a Workshop on Indonesia – Tunisia Capacity Building Partnership for Democracy: Dialogue on Empowering the Electoral Management Bodies from 10-16 May 2013. The Dialogue aimed to accommodate the sharing of experiences and lesson learned on managing a peaceful and successful election with a legitimate result as well as establishing political consensus, particularly during the time of political transition. During the 2014 Indonesian presidential election, a group of representatives from Tunisia visited to Indonesia for observing the electoral process in the country. In 2014, when the implementation of democratic transition in Tunisia took place, it was applauded by the Indonesian political class, civil society, and the press. In an editorial Jakarta post lauded Tunisia for the nation’s strong commitment to transform itself into a fully democratic state.
There are robust political ties between the two nations and both the nations strongly espouse the cause of the other in various multilateral forums. Tunisia supported the nomination of Indonesia in the UN Industrial Development Council (UNIDO) and International Maritime Organization Council Category while Indonesia supported Tunisia’s nomination in the Council of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Inter-governmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport (IGCPES).
At the 10th Tunisia-Indonesia Joint Ministerial Session, both the nations agreed to increase cooperation in the field of counter terrorism, including in the context of intelligence cooperation, the prevention of funding for terrorism, the handling of foreign terrorist figures (FTF), as well as the radicalized program and interfaith dialogue. In this regard, the two Foreign Ministers of the two countries agreed to encourage the immediate completion of the MoU on counterterrorism cooperation.
There are strong economic ties between the two nations. The current volume of trade between Tunisia and Indonesia is between 120 and 150 million dinars (between 48 and 60 million U.S. dollars). The current investment of Indonesian companies in Tunisia has reached more than US $ 100 million in the oil and gas sector. Indonesia’s main export products to Tunisia are palm oil and its derivatives, while from Tunisia to Indonesia is the date. In 2014, the Tunisia Indonesia Business Association (TIBA) was inaugurated. TIBA is a forum of association for the enhancement of relations and cooperation network between Indonesian and Tunisian business actors in trade, investment, development and tourism. During his recent visit to Tunisia, the Indonesian Foreign Minister Marsudi paid a courtesy call to the Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and during the meet economic cooperation was the focus of discussion.
The two nations also cooperate in the field of capacity building and technical cooperation. Indonesia has conducted 11 technical cooperation programs, followed by 34 participants from Tunisia in various fields such as water management , micro-financing , democracy, election management, anti-corruption and good governance. Indonesia has invited participants from Tunisia to participate in the Indonesia Technical Cooperation Program for 2018 including in agriculture, SMEs, maritime and fisheries, family planning and democracy.