Asian-African nations look toward enhanced cooperation, economic development

JAKARTA, (Indonesia) — Dozens of leaders from Asia and Africa assembled in Jakarta on Sunday for a five-day summit to breathe new life into economic development and mark the anniversary of a Cold War-era gathering that led to the Non-Aligned Movement.

The five-day Asia-Africa meeting celebrates the 60th anniversary of the historic conference in Bandung, Indonesia, hosted by Indonesia’s independence hero Sukarno, that tried to steer a way between the competing U.S. and Soviet power blocs as many new nations were gaining independence from colonial rule. At the time, the focus was on peace, security and economic development.

Six decades later, Asia and Africa are home to some of the world’s fastest-growing emerging markets.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told the ministerial meeting ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference (AAC), also known as Bandung Conference, that a Bandung Message is expected to be released during the commemoration later this week.

“To implement it (the Bangdung Message), we will have the NAASP (the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership). To support the NAASP, we have the South-South cooperation,” said the minister.

“Growing together is a must,” said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. “One day we want to see that the cooperation will not only narrow the development gap among countries but will contribute to world peace and prosperity.”

Minister of State Secretary Pratikno said that Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country and one that emerged from decades of dictatorship in the late 1990s to become one of Southeast Asia’s most stable democracies, hoped to optimize the opportunities of what he called the Asian century.

“We can contribute not only as an engine of economic development, but with our culture, our focus on democracy, with our support for human rights,” said Pratiko, who like many Indonesians uses one name.

President Joko Widodo’s chief of staff, Luhut Pandjaitan, said that Indonesia, as the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, could also assist with conflicts in the Middle East. “President Jokowi wants also to play that role,” Mr. Luhut said, referring to Mr. Widodo by his nickname.

More than 30 heads of state are planning to attend the summit, including the leaders of China, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia and Myanmar. South African President Jacob Zuma canceled at the last minute due to anti-immigrant violence at home.

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