Apr 01 23:02
Russia, Islamic world dialog expected to form strategic alliance
by Erafzon S.A.S.
Moscow (ANTARA News) – Russia, formerly part of the dissolved superpower Soviet Union, has drawn international attention by hosting a dialog on “Strategic Vision, Russia – The Islamic World” here on March 27-28, 2006.
Present in the dialog were 17 Islamic leaders from Muslims populated countries and a representative of Rabithah Al Islami. The meeting was organized by a Russian NGO, but in fact the organizer was a former government official in this state.
The meeting presided over by Evgeny Maksimovich Primakov, former Russian Prime Minister during Boris Yeltsin leadership. At the opening of the meeting, Primakov read out a written message of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian Head of Government revealed in his message that the Russian foreign policy gives priority to the dialog with the Islamic world. He explained that Russia has a long history of the Islamic world, relating to the aspects of economy, security, science/technology and culture.
Islam entered Russia in the seventh century and then developed in the Russian peninsula. Bukhara, the birthplace of renowned Islamic leader Imam Bukhari, used to be part the dissolved Soviet Union. Islam has shown the rapidest growth in Russia, about 15 percent of the Russian population consists of Muslims today.
It seems that Putin is desirous of retrieving good relations with the Islamic world, or probably wants to use the relationship with the Islamic world as a vehicle to get back the Russian position as a superpower.
When asked by the press about the political and economic benefit Russia expects to obtain by embracing the Islamic world, Primakov said diplomatically Russia does not think of advantage or disadvantage in organizing the meeting but just hopes for the creation of justice and equality between nations, especially in the Islamic world.
Whatever arguments Primakov has made, the initiative of holding a meeting which was attended by the 17 Muslim leaders including Ayatullah Taskhiry from Iran, Prince Ghazi of Jordan and Din Syamsuddin (chairman of the Indonesian Islamic organization Muhammadiyah), has given an impression that Russia wants to take advantage of its relations with the Islamic world.
Indonesian Ambassador to Russia Susanto Pudjomartono said Russia is using the Islamic card in its foreign policy for various purposes, including breaking US foreign policy`s domination.
Susanto shared the same view with Din Stamsuddin that influencing each other or embracing other countries to consolidate power for the sake of the common interests is normal in the foreign policy of a state. In the country, Susanto said, the Russian Government has approached Islamic groups. There are a quite large number of Islamic groups in Russia, and Islam is the second biggest religion after Orthodox Christianity in this country.
Last year, the Russian Government celebrated Hijriah Islamic New Year, indicating a progress in Russian relations with the Islamic world. However, there were reports of small incidents that still occurred like an assault on a mosque by an extremist group in Russia.
Building new power
Like Ambassador Susanto, Muhammadiyah Chairman Din Syamsuddin is of the view that seeking friends by influencing each other is common in the foreign policy of a country.
“It is nothing out of the common to see a power seeking to form an alliance with others to face another strong power,” said Syamsuddin. He believed that Russia, which was formerly part of dissolved superpower Soviet Union, still has the leftover potential.
Russia now has big foreign exchange reserves with the soaring crude oil price on the world market. This country fulfills 25 percent of the demand for energy in Europe. India and China have also relied on Russia for their energy supply. This state has also got large income from the sale of armaments.
The Russian Government has offered a US$1 billion credit to Indonesia to be disbursed in stages. This year Russia will deliver US$200 million to Indonesia for the purchase of Russian-made Sukhoi jet fighters.
The Islamic world`s power is worthy of consideration, according to Syamsuddin. He pointed out that there are some 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, with human resources quality and ethical standards contained in the Islamic values. The Islamic world is rich in natural resources like petroleum and other mining products, he said.
Din emphasized that it is time to end United States domination, even more so with US trans-global policy on the eradication of global terrorism by using terrorist ways.
The chairman of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) further said the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the threat to Iran and Syria, and the double standard practiced by the US and its alliance have made the Islamic world restless. “It is necessary, therefore, to form a power to counterbalance US hegemony,” he revealed.
Concerning the Indonesian position, Din said Indonesia surely deserves to become a strategic partner to build the new power as Indonesia is the world`s most-populous Moslem majority country today.
As one of the victims of terrorist attacks, Indonesia, like Russia and the Islamic world, is against terrorism. Therefore, the Russia – Islamic World dialog here on March 27-28, 2006 resulted in a joint statement on the development of cooperation in the fields of economy, culture, science/technology and security as well as the eradication of terrorism, according to Din.
He emphasized the need to take concrete corrective measures against the existing accumulative problems currently threatening the world like poverty, ignorance and backwardness. Efforts to get rid of those problems should not be merely rhetorical, he said.
One of the important measures that must be taken is, according to Din, creating a peaceful, fair, civilized and balanced world as contained in the Joint Statement issued at the end of the Russia” Islamic world dialog.
Learning from experience in connection with the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in the past, the US used the Islamic issue to oppose Soviet occupation of that Central Asian country.
After a terrorist attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, the US occupied Iraq and supported the Afghan Government at that time, and now Russia is approaching the Islamic world to show its role. Thus, it is not clear, who makes use of who, and where the Islamic world should be.
Irrespective of all those matters, may the idea of fostering a relationship through the Russia – Islamic world dialog be fulfilled. (*)