In his first encounter with US President Barack Obama, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo told the leader of the most dominant country in the world on Monday that Indonesia was a model where Islam and democracy existed hand in hand.
In their meeting on the sideline of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing, China, Jokowi said that Indonesia, having the world largest Muslim population, had illustrated democracy at its best as seen in the peaceful transition of power during the recent legislative and presidential election.
“The elections have shown that Islam and democracy can work hand in hand,” said Jokowi, who was accompanied by Coordinating Economic Minister Sofyan Djalil, Foreign Minister Retno L.P Marsudi, Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto and foreign affairs observer Rizal Sukma of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Jokowi said that Indonesia had ample experience over more than 30 years with resolving issues of religious extremism.
In his welcoming remarks to Jokowi, Obama praised Indonesia for its extraordinary efforts in the campaign for tolerance and pluralism.
“I would like to thank Indonesia for what it has done to isolate extremism and to work with other countries in counterterrorism efforts,” said Obama.
Obama, who is traveling without First Lady Michele Obama on the trip, was also said to have asked questions in Indonesian about the condition of Puncak and Bandung, the capital of West Java, to several Indonesian officials during a bilateral meeting between Indonesia and the US earlier in the day.
“I heard Puncak is now ‘macet’ [plagued with traffic jams],” said Obama as recalled by an official. “So how do you get to Bandung if Puncak is ‘macet’?” he asked.
During the bilateral meeting, Obama told Jokowi that he had a very close association with Indonesia, having spent a good deal of his childhood there.
“I hope that we can develop not only a strong personal friendship but can continue to build the strong friendship between our two people,” said Obama during the meeting.
Obama has invited Jokowi to Washington next year to discuss the expansion of the comprehensive economic and security partnership between Indonesia and the US.
Aside from discussing regional security issues during the meeting, Obama also talked about controlling the Ebola outbreak, as well as Indonesia’s efforts to reduce Islamic extremism and the increasing number of Islamic State followers.