The two countries have decided to expedite trade related issues and signed six pacts to take forward their strategic partnership.
Rediff.com’s Sheela Bhatt, who is travelling with the prime minister on his visit to Indonesia, reports from Jakarta.
India and Indonesia have found common ground in sea, air, land and space to take their strategic relation to the next level. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have bonded well in Jakarta to give a push to the existing arrangements.
Both countries have decided to have robust cooperation in maritime security. The joint statement said that both countries have stressed the importance of closer collaboration on capacity building and exchange of best practices in the field of maritime security and holding joint exercises.
Navies of both countries already hold joint navy exercises to safeguard their ships from pirates in Malacca straits. From India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Indonesia is just 90 nautical miles away. Both countries continue to emphasise the need for maritime cooperation. The two countries also agreed to enhance air-connectivity.
One of the agreements under the trade negotiations has been about, “recognizing the significance of connectivity for enhancement of trade and tourism. The leaders welcomed the agreement to establish direct flights by Batik Air and code sharing services between Jet Airways and Garuda Indonesia, “said the joint statement.
Greater cooperation can be expected between the countries in the area of space too. The joint statement said, “Leaders acknowledged the increasing intensity of collaboration between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space of Indonesia.”
ISRO might help Indonesia with its launch vehicles to put Indonesian satellites into space. The statement said Indonesia welcomed India’s offer of further upgradation of the Biak Telemetry, Tracking and Command Station to receive data from its OceanSat and ResourceSat satellites that have applications in hydrography, weather forecasting, disaster management, crop forecasting and resource mapping.
The leadership of the two countries have added more content to the relation, as they had one-on-one and delegation-level talks. The discussions resulted in the signing of six agreements and cooperation in different sectors including defence, space, maritime security, food security, trade, health and culture. This is one bilateral relation in India’s proximity which is working, growing and is recognising it’s potential.
Ashok Kantha, secretary (east) in the Ministry of External Affairs said India and Indonesia’s bilateral relation is acquiring depth and content on the five pillars of understanding.
The joint statement issued on Friday after the talks elaborated that, “The leaders agreed to adopt a five-pronged initiative for strengthening the strategic partnership with the objective of taking the robust, multifaceted cooperation to even greater heights.”
These five areas are; strategic engagement, defence and security-cooperation, comprehensive economic partnership, cultural and people to people links and cooperation in responding to common challenges.
Kantha, after the bilateral meetings, said that Indonesia is playing a significant strategic role in helping India enhance its association with ASEAN. Many ASEAN countries, including Indonesia look forward to India's active role in the region, as China grows its presence rapidly in and around East Asia. India and Indonesia share not just history but contemporary issues too. Both are plural, both have adopted liberalisation and have fast-spaced economies.
Both countries have a growing urban middle class, issues related to growth, lack of funding for infrastructure, both are looking for investment in better technology to exploit natural resources, issue of food security, jihadi terrorism, the issue of maritime security in surrounding sea bothers them. All these common challenges have been discussed today between both countries. Prime Minister Singh said, “Indonesia is one of India’s most valued partners in our Look East Policy. Our bilateral relations are rich in potential and growing rapidly.”
Besides the issue of trade imbalance due to India's import of oil, coal and palm oil, there has been few trade related issues regarding Indian private investment in Indonesia. Some of it has been recently on shaky ground because Indian businessmen like the Ambanis, Adani and other business groups are finding the going tough here. They want “transparent, stable and predictable regime in Jakarta.”
At the highest level, a decision was taken to expedite trade related issues on both sides. The joint statement said that to solve the pending business related issues both sides have agreed to form, “a high-level task force to effectively monitor implementation of Business-to-Business MoUs; facilitate investment in each other’s national infrastructure development plans, including through PPP (Public–private partnership) mode; and identify specific projects for joint investment in India, Indonesia or third countries.”
Kantha, said while briefing the media that even the possibility of joint defence equipments production is under consideration between both countries.
India, the world’s second most populous country, and Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populated country, with the largest Muslim population enjoys cordial relation which was visible in the joint addresses of both leaders.
Both leaders have welcomed the constitution of the India-Indonesia Eminent Persons Group and tasked the group to prepare, within a year, a vision document 2025 for India-Indonesia relations. Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran will head the group.
India and Indonesia have put their best foot forward in mutual interest with commitment to take the $20 billion trade to $25 billion in 2015.
Image: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta
Photograph: Courtesy B M Meena, Photo Division