India And Indonesia Very Rightly Elevate Bilateral Ties

Coming straight to the nub of the matter, let me begin right at the very beginning by pointing out that India and Indonesia on May 30, 2018 agreed to step up their defence and maritime cooperation thus raising the level of their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership after the meeting in Jakarta between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. India and Indonesia elevated their bilateral ties to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Both Modi and Widodo condemned terrorism in all its forms.
                                     As it turned out, the two countries also signed 15 agreements including one to boost defence cooperation, and called for freedom of navigation in the strategic Indo-Pacific region. This will certainly go a long way in elevating bilateral ties between both the countries. The 15 Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) between India and Indonesia were signed after the end of delegation level talks led by the two leaders – Modi and Widodo. The 15 MoUs were signed by the two countries in the following fields: -
1.   Agreement between India and Indonesia for cooperation in the field of Defence: Regular bilateral dialogue and consultation on strategic defence and military issues of common interest, exchange of strategic information, military education, training and exercise, cooperation among the Armed Forces including Army, Navy, Air Force and Aerospace, humanitarian aid, disaster relief, peace-keeping and medical service among others.
2.   Framework Agreement between India and Indonesia on cooperation in the exploration and uses of outer space for peaceful purposes: Space sciences, exploration of outer space, use of space technology, monitoring of Earth’s environment from outer space and remote sensing, use of Integrated Biak Ground Stations for mutual benefit, hosting of Indian ground station in Indonesia, support for launch services of LAPAN made satellites, joint research and development activities in space technology etc.
3.   MoU between India and Indonesia on Scientific and Technological Cooperation: Information and Communication Technology, Maritime Science and technology, energy research, disaster management, geospatial information, applied chemistry etc.
4.   MoU between India and Indonesia on Technical Cooperation in Railways sector: Exchange of knowledge, technology, institutional cooperation including capacity building, modernization of rolling stock, signaling, communication system, operations in railways; development of inter-modal transport, exchange of construction and maintenance technologies for tracks, bridges, tunnel, overhead electrification etc.  
5.   MoU between India and Indonesia on Health Cooperation: Research and development Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and IT-based medical equipment, Exchange of health and medical experts, Training in the mutually agreed identified areas.
6.   MoU between India and Indonesia on Pharmaceutical, Biological and Cosmetics Regulatory Functions: Cooperation in the field of regulatory  functions related to Pharmaceutical products, including Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, Biological products, including vaccines, biotechnology/biosimilar and also cooperation with each other in multilateral fora.
7.   MoU between India and Indonesia on Policy Dialogue between Governments and Interaction between Think Tanks: Establishing Joint Secretary/Director General level Policy Dialogue Forum; exchange of information, experiences and best practices on regional studies, security and economic issues; establish joint studies in areas of mutual interest.
8.   MoU between Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration of India (LBSNAA) and National Institute of Public Administration of Indonesia (NIPA): Exchange of working or study visits, trainers, lecturers etc with a view to sharing respective knowledge and experience; organization of customized capacity building programmes in the area of public governance and leadership, public administration, innovation of public service, joint courses, joint research activities, exchange of best practices etc.
9.   Exchange of plan of activities: Plan of activities to celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations between India and Indonesia in the year 2109-20.
10.  MoU between Kite Museum Ahmedabad and Layang Layang Gujarat: Organization/ participation in Annual Kite Festivals, kite exhibitions, kite designing workshops, seminars etc., promoting and popularizing the art of kite designing, kite making and kite flying.
11.  MoU between Archaeological Survey of India and PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobundur, Prambanan & Ratu Boko concerning World Cultural Heritage of Prambanan Temple and Taj Mahal: Joint promotion and organizing events, exchange of experts, implementation of technical guidance etc.
12.  MoU between PT Pindad (PERSERO) & Bhukhanvala: To discuss possibilities for collaboration and use of products and related technical discussions, exchange of data of the project.  
13.  MoU between Confederation of Indian Industry and KAIDIN: To promote economic trade and technological cooperation, exchange of information/visits on economic and commercial cooperation, support activities for trade promotion, suggest and recommend possible partners etc.
14.  MoU between International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore and Agency for Human Resources Development and Research on Communications and Informatics of Ministry of Communications and Informatics of Indonesia: Scholarship cooperation programme to facilitate study and research at IIIT Bangalore.
15.  MoU between Himalaya Drug Company and PT Kalbe Farma: To work towards establishing joint venture company in marketing, establish research center and local manufacturing.   
                          It must also be pointed out here that  besides this, there were certain announcements also that were made during the delegation level talks. They are as follows: -
1.  Tata from India and PT Pindad in Indonesia to collaborate for supply of TATA trucks.
2.  Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to open its first overseas office in Jakarta, Indonesia with its representative from India.
3.  Letter of intent signed earlier in April 2018 for twinning of Bali and Uttarakhand under the sister province arrangement.   
                      Needless to say, as Modi reached Jakarta on the night of May 29 on his first-ever official visit to Indonesia was accorded a red carpet welcome on the morning of May 30 at the Merdeka Palace which is one of the residential palaces in Indonesia. The two leaders had fruitful discussion on various burning topics. The two leaders discussed areas of strategic cooperation and ways to ensure better economic ties and closer cultural relations, besides regional and global issues of mutual interest.
                   To be sure, in a joint press meeting after the meeting, Narendra Modi said that India’s Act East Policy and the vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) matched Widodo’s Maritime Fulcrum Vision. He said that, “As mutual partners and neighbours, our worries are similar. It is our duty to ensure maritime security and safety. This is also for the safety of our economic interests.” Very rightly said!
              Be it noted, PM Modi announced a 30-day free visa for Indonesian citizens and invited the diaspora to travel to their country of origin to experience the ‘New India’.  While addressing a gathering of the Indian diaspora at the Jakarta Convention Centre in the Indonesian capital at Jakarta, PM Modi said confidently that, “Not only do the names of our nations rhyme but also there is a distinct rhythm in the India-Indonesia friendship.” By the way, Indonesia has maximum Muslims in the world and India ranks second!  
           It also cannot be lost on us that the crowd applaused when PM Modi declared that, “We will grant free of cost visa for Indonesian citizens for travel of up to 30 days.” Modi also  told the gathering that, “Many of you may never have been to India. I invite you all to come to India for the Kumbh in Prayag (Allahabad) next year.” Modi also expressed confidence that this mega event would be a new experience for the visitors who will not only realize India’s ancient culture but also get a glimpse of ‘New India’.   
                                  Interestingly enough, both India and Indonesia on May 30 strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including cross-border terrorism and urged all countries to work towards disrupting terrorist networks and their financing  channels. Both PM Narendra Modi and President Joko Widodo also shared the view on the imperative need to eradicate radicalism and reiterated the everlasting importance of promoting peaceful pluralism that would lead to true civilization harmony, and moderation through a holistic approach. There can be no denying it!
                Simply put, a joint statement issued after the meeting of Modi and Widodo made it amply clear that, “The two leaders reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including cross border terrorism and terror related incidents in Indonesia and India and affirmed that perpetrators of these heinous acts must be brought to justice. Both leaders also affirmed that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, creed, nationality and ethnicity.” Who can deny this? Absolutely right!
              Truth be told, both Modi and Widodo also called upon all countries to work towards disrupting terrorist networks and their financing channels, and halting cross-border movement of terrorists from terror organizations as well as other terrorist groups threatening peace and security in respective region. No one country can  fight terrorism alone. It can be fought only unitedly by all countries by working in tandem with each other on this front!
            To say the least, the two leaders also called for enhanced cooperation including through greater exchange of information and intelligence between both sides. They also called for expeditious finalization and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in order to strengthen the existing international counter-terrorism legal framework. This is incumbent to foil the nefarious designs of various terror groups in the bud right at the beginning itself!
               It also must be underscored here that PM Modi expressed solidarity with Indonesia in its fight against terrorists and terror groups. He also strongly condemned the recent terror strikes on three churches in Indonesia and said that India stands resolutely with Jakarta in its fight against terrorism. Modi said after his talks with Widodo that, “Friends, I am in grief over the deaths of innocent civilians of Indonesia in the recent terror attacks. India strongly condemns such attacks and stands with Indonesia in its fight against terrorism.”
                                It must be revealed here that six suicide bombers targeted three churches during services in Surabaya which is the country’s second largest city early this month. Such a dastardly attack can never be justified under any circumstances. There should be no ceasefire with terrorists, no talks with terrorists and same should be the case with those countries supporting and arming them! Only then can terrorists be neutralized effectively!
              Truly speaking, the joint statement said that Indonesia and India realise that interfaith dialogue has become an effective forum to nurture peace and social harmony as well as to promote democracy and human rights. It added that, “Interfaith dialogue is a reflection of the united commitment of both countries to explore a new understanding on the rise of religious identities, the dynamic of pluralism and to eradicate radicalism.” The Interfaith Dialogue shall be held in October 2018.
                        It would be pertinent to mention here that its been some time but both countries which are enormous in their own ways, are finally finding convergence on the maritime front which is largely due to the fears generated by China’s expansionism. The joint statement also said that they would negotiate to resolve the question of delimitation of maritime boundaries, which they said “should be based on the principles of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.” Rightly said!
        Sure enough, China has encroached on Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEC) with its 9 dash line to the extent that Indonesia has now renamed its sea as the Natuna Sea. Though it is not a claimant, Indonesia has clashed with Beijing over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands and expanded its military presence there. With a coastline of 7500 km, India occupies a central position in the Indo-Pacific, while Indonesia, as the largest archipelagic State in the world with a coastline of 108,000 kms, is a key country that connects the Indian and Pacific Ocean.
               Of course, when asked about India’s investment in Sabang, Secretary (East) in the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) Preeti Saran said that New Delhi was interested in helping build infrastructure across South-East Asia. This is bound to increase India’s influence and standing in the region. Preeti rightly said that, “There have been discussions about building infrastructure, it’s not just seaports, but airports. There would be a lot of interest among Indian companies.”
                 Widodo also told a news conference that, “India is a strategic defence partner…and we will continue to advance our cooperation in developing infrastructure, including at Sabang Island and the Andaman Islands.” Analysts say that developing infrastructure and an economic zone at Sabang port which sits on the tip of Sumatra island and at the mouth of the Malacca Strait which is one of the busiest trade routes was a major outcome of the visit and would go a long way in India’s intentions to play a larger role in the Indo-Pacific. The two countries also agreed to boost the existing naval cooperation including the bilateral Coordinated Patrols initiated in 2002 between the navies of the two countries and commencement of the regular bilateral naval exercises.  
               Briefly stated, the two countries also issued a separate document on a “Shared Vision of India-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”, to showcase a joint point of view and a roadmap for cooperation in economic, defence and cultural fields. This is a very positive development for both the countries. No doubt, China is watching all this with strained eyes!
                         It cannot be missed out that it is the first time that India has worked out such a shared vision with any ASEAN  (Association of South East Asian Nations) country outlining comprehensive areas of maritime cooperation and security architecture in the Indo-Pacific. The two countries also stressed the “importance of achieving a free, open, transparent, rules-based, peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, where sovereignty and territorial integrity, international law, in particular UNCLOS United Nations Convention on the Law On the Seas), freedom of navigation and overflight, sustainable development and an open, free, fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment system are respected.” That places their maritime policies on a different trajectory from China’s.
                       Modi also made it a point to visit Indonesia’s grand Istiqlal Mosque which is the largest in South-East Asia accompanied by Widodo. Modi tweeted later that, “Glad to have visited the Istiqlal Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world.” Earlier, Modi also visited the Arjuna Wijaya Chariot – which depicts a scene from the Mahabharata with Arjun and Lord Krishna on the chariot, pulled by eight horses, symbolizing the eight elements of nature.
                                All said and done, PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Indonesia has done a yeoman’s job in elevating the ties between both the nations to a new high! 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties to be observed in 2019. Both Modi and Widodo also shared a good chemistry with each other!
                                                             Drawing similarity between himself and Widodo, Modi said that, Both countries are proud of their democratic ethos and their diversity. In 2014, people of India voted for a government headed by a person belonging to a poor background. Similarly, the people of Indonesia elected President Joko Widodo whose background is also humble.”
                            Let’s hope that in the coming days the bilateral relationship between both the countries are elevated to a new height further which has been made easier because of the warm relations that have developed over the years between Widodo and Modi! Both nations have a lot in common which alone explains why both countries have enjoyed good relations since a long time. Addressing the Indian diaspora, Modi gave a detailed account of the Indian economy and said that, “India and Indonesia are symbols of social and cultural diversity and harmony. There is a special link between their cultures.” Having said this, one has to still concede that there is still enough room for both the countries to take the bilateral relations between both the countries to a new high further as “Sky is the limit for improvement”!       
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh