Indonesia is celebrating the 73th anniversary of its Independence Day today Friday (17/8). On 17 August 1945, in a modest yet thrilling ceremony in Central Jakarta, Soekarno and Mohammad Hatta declared to the ‘nation’ and the world that Indonesia is an independent and sovereign country from that day onwards.
Previously, Indonesia had been colonized by the Netherlands for 350 years and had fallen under Japanese military occupation for three years and a half. Soekarno and Mohammad Hatta proclaimed Indonesia’s independence after Japan’s surrendered to the US-led Allied Forces in August 1945, a couple of weeks before the World War II fully came to an end.
However, many young Indonesians and probably some from the older generation are not really aware that the Netherlands only recognized the 17 August 1945 declaration of Indonesian independence in August 2005. Then visiting Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Rudolf Bot, while delivering a speech at the Foreign Ministry on 16 August 2005, stated that the Netherlands expressed regret to the Indonesian people. He said his country had opposed Indonesia’s struggle for independence and, accordingly, the Netherlands had actually stood ‘on the wrong side of the history’.
The next day, Bernard Rudolf Bot became the first top Dutch official to attend the Independence Day ceremony at the front yard of the Merdeka Palace with then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono acting as ceremonial inspector.
Furthermore, on 4 September 2008, then Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende attended Indonesia’s Independence Day ceremony at the Indonesian embassy compound in Den Haag. Accompanying him were his senior ministers.
In fact, 50 years after the independence, on 21 August 1995, Dutch Queen Beatrix made an official visit to Indonesia. Although her visit took place several days after Indonesia’s Independence Day, it was widely perceived as the Netherlands officially showing its recognition of the 17 August 1945 declaration of independence.
For 60 years the Netherlands recognized that Indonesia achieved its independence in December 1949 instead of 17 August 1945. This is based on the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference in Amsterdam, which started that from August 1949 the Netherlands transfers the sovereignty of the ‘United States of Indonesia’ to Indonesia on 27 December 1949 as agreed.
Meanwhile, President Suharto had made a state visit to the Netherlands in 1970. President Abdurrahman Wahid also made an official visit to the Netherlands in 2000 while President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo visited in 2016.
Over the years, the Netherlands and Indonesia have developed strong cooperation for the latter’s development. The Netherlands chaired the now defunct Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI), which comprised donor countries. Established in 1967, the group provided development assistance for Indonesia. In 1992, IGGI was abolished and replaced by the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI). In 2003, CGI ended its existence.