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.
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 Europalia Indonesia Festival which was held from 10 October 2017 to 21 January 2018 was a real effort of socio-cultural cooperation between Indonesia and Belgium. The festival, which was attended by more than half a million visitors, was opened by Vice President Jusuf Kalla and Belgian King Philippe. During the event, the visitors showed great enthusiasm and festive reception.
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.
The Indonesian Interfaith Scholarship program was held again in 2017 and was attended by 15 participants from media, think-tank, European Parliament and NGOs in the EU region. The program was held on July 22 to August 1, 2017. The program initiated by the Indonesian Embassy in Brussels and the Center for Religious Harmony (PKUB) of the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Indonesia has a goal to support Indonesia's efforts in promoting itself as a multicultural country with long experience in managing religious diversity and culture, including moderate Islam in Indonesia. In addition, the participants are expected, after undergoing this program, understand better about religious life in Indonesia.