A friend and a sea of opportunity

A friend and a sea of opportunity
Yudhoyono is in Singapore for a three-day state visit accompanied by his wife Ibu Ani Bambang Yudhoyono and a high-level delegation.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke on the 'strong and special' relationship he has built with Singapore over the past decade at a state banquet in his honour at the Istana on Wednesday. Dr Yudhoyono was awarded the Order of Temasek (First Class) during his state visit to Singapore.

Here is an excerpt from his remarks.

Since joining the Cabinets of (former) presidents Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Sukarnoputri, and since becoming President of Indonesia in 2004, I was always mindful of the strategic value of Singapore.

Singapore has achieved remarkable progress as a nation. As a city state, an island state, with small population and no natural resources, Singaporeans faced an uphill struggle to survive, let alone succeed. But as you mark your 49 years of independence, here you are now. You have become a modern, developed nation in the heart of South-east Asia, with high quality of life. From a society of migrants and traders, you have developed a strong national identity and pride as Singaporeans. You have scored impressive gains in global rankings on education, on competitiveness, on innovation, on ease of doing business and many others.

And diplomatically you have punched well above your weight in the world community. You have become a positive example of the good things that come when a nation applies the rule of law, good governance, hard work and sound economic policy.

In the past 10 years, good relations with Singapore have been my government's top priority. I admit, there were times when relations with Singapore were not easy; perhaps, you think the same of us too. But I am sure there is a mutual feeling that Indonesia- Singapore relations constitute one of our most important bilateral relations, and we have to get it right. In pursuing our relations with Singapore, as with all other nations, I have always embraced the principle of equality between nations.

This is fundamental to our foreign policy: we respect and will cooperate with all nations - big, medium and small. I have also emphasised the need to cultivate goodwill, trust and confidence. This is why since 2010, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I have met every year, where we sit together with a minimum of formality to discuss openly the issues that confront our nations. This is followed by even more frequent consultations between our foreign and other ministers.

And, of course, this relationship cannot have a "special" quality unless we are deeply invested in the success of one another and feel each other's pain and are always ready to help in times of need.

This is what transpired when the Singapore Armed Forces came to our aid during the critical hour of the tsunami crisis, a time which shall be remembered as the most difficult time of my presidency. And for my part, that is why in March this year I stopped campaigning for several days during the elections, so that I could personally lead the efforts to reduce forest fires in Riau. After all we have been through - the ups and downs - I believe we have fostered stronger relations.

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