Relations between Indonesia and Belgium began in 1947 when the latter became a member of the Three Nations Commission, together with Australia and the United States, to resolve the dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands. In 1949, Belgium became one of the first European countries that recognized Indonesia's independence.
Bilateral relations between the two countries continue to grow, which are marked by high-level visits between the two sides. In March 2016, Princess Astrid, the sister of King Philippe, led the Belgian economic mission to Indonesia. Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo visited Belgium in April 2016 and met with the King of the Belgians.
President Joko Widodo will come to Brussels again later this October to inaugurate Festival Europalia Indonesia 2017 together with King Philippe. Festival Europalia is a biennial event organized by Belgium that showcases the arts and culture of a selected guest country. Indonesia is the eighth country beyond the European Union that has been choses as the guest country since the festival's inception in 1969.
Belgium has symbolically bestowed the Commandeur de l'Ordre de Leopold to Vice President Jusuf Kalla, and Officier de l'Ordre de Leopold to the former Head of Indonesia Investment Board Mohammad Hidayat on 6 February 2009 in Brussels.
In the last 6 years, the balance of trade between both countries has always indicated a surplus for Indonesia. In line with this, the total value of bilateral trade in 2016 amounted to 1,61 billion USD showing surplus 634 million USD for Indonesia.
Indonesian export commodities to Belgium include footwear (28,1%), clothes (15,2%), furniture (4,5%), voice recorder (3,2%), synthetic yarn (2,9%), tire (2,7%), coffee (2,7%), plywood (2,2%), tobacco leaf (1,7%), paper (1,5%), lamp (1,3%), innards (1,1%), and synthetic paint (1,0%).
On the other hand, Indonesia imported several products from Belgium (2014) including chemical products (11,1%), concentrated milk (9,1%), wind compressor (4,8%), recycled paper (3,1%), blood/vaccine raw materials (2,9%), heterocyclic nitrogen chemical products (2,8%), chemical fertilizer (2,8%), butter (2,8%), lorry (2,6%), medicines (2,3%), chocolate (2,3%), wheat starch (1,4%).
The largest Belgian investment sectors in Indonesia are plantations, steel, pharmacy, garment and textiles, warehousing, transportation, and telecommunications. The largest Belgian companies in Indonesia are Solvay (chemical materials), SIPEF (plantation), Bekaert (steel industry), and Delhaize (retail and supermarket).
To enhance economic cooperation between the two countries, from 12-19 March 2016, Princess Astrid of Belgium led an official visit to Indonesia with her economic mission. This economic mission comprising around 300 participants included many high officials, vice presidents and ministers from the federal and regional levels, as well as businessmen and media. In addition to a visit to Jakarta, Princess Astrid also visited Bogor, Bandung, Karawang, and Bekasi. The Vice-President of Wallonia and the French Speaking Communities, Jean-Claude Marcourt took this opportunity also to make an official visit to Yogyakarta.
During this visit, Princess Astrid inaugurated a fiber cement board factory PT Eternit Gresik at Surya Cipta Industrial Residence, Karawang. Several MoUs have also been signed between Belgium and Indonesia, at government, business and academic levels.
The Pairi Daiza Park located in Brugelette, Belgium has a dedicated Indonesian theme area dubbed as the Kingdom of Ganesha. The park covers an area of 6,2 hectares and was officially inaugurated by the Minister of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia, Jero Wacik, on 18 May 2009.
The Government of Indonesia delivered two elephants to Belgium on 17 August 2009 and the elephants are now at Pairi Daiza Park. Those two elephants are a symbolic gift to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Belgium. Indonesia also had the honor of dressing Brussels' mascot, Manneken Pis, on 18-19 August 2008 with Lampung's traditional dress.
In the higher education sector, numerous universities in Indonesia and Belgium have engaged in academic and research cooperation. Some universities that are engaged in this type of cooperation include Ghent University, Leuven University, Liège University from Belgium, and Gajah Mada University, Paramadina University, Bina Nusantara University, from Indonesia. The cooperation covers includes joint research, student and lecturer exchange, joint training and covers various areas such as business management, agriculture systems, food technology, as well as the management of regional protection and wildlife diversity conservation.
Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-majority country, with almost 90% of its 250 million population adhering to Islam. Indonesia is also the world's fourth largest democracy. Indonesia has been considered as a model for democracy and Islam.
Indonesia and Belgium have engaged in bilateral cooperation in the area of inter-faith dialogue. This cooperation is being done through government as well as track two and track three avenues of diplomacy, through civil society and academia, including the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Indonesia and Leuven Catholic University.
Indonesia has also initiated the Indonesia Interfaith Scholarships since 2012. Through this program, participants who come from various institutions based in Belgium (including the Belgian government, European Commission, European Parliament, civil society) spend two weeks in Indonesia to experience firsthand religious tolerance and harmony in the different communities.