Lok Sabha TV- Public Forum: India-Indonesia Ties
The Indonesian President Mr. Joko Widodo was recently in India on his maiden state visit this week and held delegation level talks with Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. While some agreements were signed between the two nations, what remains crucial was the focus on jointly combating terrorism. Both countries have established several bilateral agreements in strengthening several strategic, maritime and defence agreements in the past. Indonesia is an emerging market with immense potential and both the countries share mutual interests having large Muslim populations, sharing common democratic values and equally priding themselves as non-aligned countries. Moreover, Indonesia is an important partner of India in realizing the objectives of its Act East approach. Both the countries are one of the fastest growing economies in the region.
Highlights of the Visit:
- Two MoUs were signed on cooperation in the areas of youth and sports and on standardization.
- A joint communique was also signed on voluntary international cooperation to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and to promote sustainable fisheries governance.
- The two sides also agreed to boost trade and investment in the areas of oil and gas, renewable energy, IT etc.
This visit has multiple significance for India’s foreign policy and also has great significance in regional connect that India has. India has just hosted BRICS and BIMSTEC countries so it’s reach out to ASEAN countries particularly the BIMSTEC members is important and from that point of view the global resonance of India’s experience with terrorism is extremely important. The commitment that Indonesia has shown in terms of development minded approach is quite good. India is also trying to hook up with the RCEP process which is extremely significant from the trade point of view particularly after Trump has announced lapse of TPP. RCEP is a major vehicle on which India can move on.
India and Indonesia share a common culture. Mr. Narendra Modi’s policies are different on Act East. He is emphasizing more on economics, soft power and connections. India’s major import from Indonesia is of coal and recently there were demands in Indonesia to refix the prices of coal as a result of which lot of blockage of coal exports from Indonesia was evident. Given the investments being done by India in different sectors, coal export is considered important. Indian investors have also invested in textiles, automobiles and pharma sector creating large number of jobs in Indonesia.
Connectivity, commerce and culture all the three channels have to be used together wisely to move forward. Historical ties have to be brought into India’s advantage when trade and investment comes in. There are challenges particularly in terms of India’s focus in its neighborhood. Foreign policy is not working in vacuum. India has its own narrative on blue economy where it is trying to ensure port led development of the coastal areas across the country both on the eastern and western side up to Odisha. This will provide a huge bedrock for multiplying trade and investment with ASEAN as well as African countries. India never had any contentions with Indonesia like it has with its other neighbors. Indonesia has also launched its first direct flight to India.
Indonesia shares borders with Malaysia and Malaysia is a country that has procured lots of arms and ammunition though there are no direct threats. At the same time, Indonesia is more or less dependent on China in this regard. India can play a role here because Indonesia is skeptical of China. India’s position on South China Sea is very clear. There are growing concerns among South-East Asian countries regarding China.
India and Indonesia are friendly maritime nations with deep civilizational links between the people of the two countries, including the common heritage of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. They underscored the importance of pluralism, democracy, and rule of law as key values to achieve peaceful co-existence. They have welcomed the convergence in the political, economic and strategic interests of the two countries that provides an enduring basis for a long-term strategic partnership.