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Indonesia - India Relations

Both countries have established historical relationships and a very long culture. Diplomatic relations were upgraded to strategic partnership in 2005. India and Indonesia have shared two millennia of close cultural and commercial contacts. During their respective struggles for independence, the national leaderships of India and Indonesia led by Jawaharlal Nehru and President Sukarno collaborated closely in supporting the cause of Asian and African independence and later after the two countries became independent, together Prime Minister Nehru and President Sukarno laid the foundation of the Afro-Asian and Non-Aligned Movements at the Bandung Conference in 1955.Since the adoption of India’s ‘Look East Policy’ in 1991, there has been a rapid development of bilateral relations in political, security, defence, commercial and cultural fields.

The Indian Ocean has only recently emerged in Indonesian foreign policy dialogue due to Joko Widodo’s vision for a global maritime axis. Indonesia seeks to revive its old geopolitical view of “between two continents, between two oceans”; a view that was once held by Mohammad Hatta (1953). As such, Indonesia’s interests in the Indian Ocean are mainly economic and are based on multilateralism.

Joko Widodo envisioned Indonesia as an Indo-Pacific maritime power, capable of safeguarding not only Indonesian waters, but also SLOCs in the Indian Ocean and Pacific. To a large extent, Indonesia would have to consider the existence of India as an emerging power in the Indian Ocean region. At the 2014 India ASEAN Summit, Narendra Modi announced an upgraded version of Narasimha Rao’s “Look East” policy, called “Act East”. The policy indicates India’s intentions to be more involved in Southeast Asia to balance a rising China. Furthermore, Indonesia would also have to engage bilaterally with China, especially considering China’s influence in the Indian Ocean through its ‘string of pearls’.

In 2001, India and Indonesia signed a defense cooperation agreement, which was later renewed and expanded in 2013. The two countries signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement in 2001 and have had regular defence exchanges including the exchange of high level visits, ship visits, officers studying in Staff Colleges in either country and joint coordinated patrols in the mouth of the Malacca Straits. Raksha Mantri visited Indonesia on 15-17 October 2012 as part of the biennial dialogue between the two Defence Ministers agreed during President Yudhoyono’s visit to India in January 2011. The 3rd Joint Defence Cooperation Committee was held in Jakarta 15 October 2012 preceding RM’s meeting. In SLOC security, India and Indonesia have started maritime security cooperation since 2006. In 2006, India offered to help Indonesia in dealing with piracy in the Malacca Strait by providing naval assistance.

India and Indonesia have robust cooperation in the area of defence and security. There are regular meetings held at the Ministerial and Service level to review the progress of various defence cooperation activities, and to identify new areas of common interest for cooperation. Visits by high level officers, military delegations, and ships are frequent. Being close neighbours, both countries are working towards further strengthening this relationship to collaborate with the aim of assuring safety and security of common interests in the region.

Adm Sunil Lanba, PVSM, AVSM, ADC visited Indonesia in August 2016 as the Chief of Naval Staff. During the period 2016-2017 there have been numerous ship visits, including visit by four ships of the Eastern Fleet to Jakarta and Surabaya in May 2017 and four ships of the 1 Training Squadron to Jakarta in October 2017. The Armed Forces to the two countries have regular exchanges and meetings for experience sharing. The IND-INDO Coordinated Patrol, which is being conducted biannually since 2002, demonstrates the long term commitment of both countries to maintain and strengthen cooperation in the areas of defence and security.

In an event hosted by New Delhi titled "Indonesia's Maritime Policy and Thinking of ways forward for India-Indonesia as Maritime Neighbours," it was informed that India would be investing in the port and economic zone of Sabang and build a hospital. Sabang is just 710 kilometers southeast of the Andaman and Nicobar islands that host India's only tri-service command.

"India and Indonesia have started naval drills in 2017, but we can explore doing more between our coast guards. This will become even better when the Sabang seaport is established with India. Sabang port has a depth of 40 meters which is good even for submarines," Luhut Pandjaitan, coordinating minister for maritime affairs of Indonesia, said while addressing the event. Dialogue on the development of Sabang started in 2014-15, but the process was delayed as the economic viability of the port was questioned.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian minister also emphasized the need for cooperation between the two countries on the proposed "global maritime fulcrum" that would balance China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). "Indonesia and India are big enough that we don't have to lean towards any superpower, and this makes India a sensible partner for Indonesia," Minister Pandjaitan added.

At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Joko Widodo, Prime Minister of the Republic of India, H.E. Shri Narendra Modi paid the first official visit to Indonesia on 29-30 May 2018. To enhance the two countries’ strategic partnership, the Leaders agreed to hold Annual Summit meetings, including on the margins of multilateral events. They also stressed the importance of continuing regular bilateral consultations through the robust architecture of dialogue in place, including the Ministerial and Working Group Mechanisms.

The Leaders welcomed the adoption of the “Shared Vision on Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific between India and Indonesia” with a strong belief that the two countries could develop further cooperation in maritime sector which can be a force of immense stability in the region. Both sides expressed their satisfaction at the excellent state of Strategic Partnership between the two countries. The Leaders welcomed the growing convergence in the political, strategic, defence, security and economic fields between the two countries and noted that the bilateral relationship had acquired a new momentum following the State Visit of President Joko Widodo in December 2016 and successful implementation of the commitments made by both sides.

Both Leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation in all areas by establishing a New Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to take Indonesia and India’s bilateral relationship into a new era. Indonesia and India are not just close neighbours but fellow democracies with shared interests and a common future. In this regard, both Leaders committed to make further significant investment in the bilateral relations to give substance and weight to the New Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and directed their respective Foreign Ministers to review the follow up of this commitment at their next meeting and to report back to Leaders.

Both leaders reaffirmed that Indonesia and India as strategic partners and maritime neighbors must work to further strengthen and broaden the already robust defense cooperation. The Leaders reaffirmed their commitment in the field of defense, with the signing of Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) between two countries. The Agreement will further strengthen and renew the existing cooperation for the mutual benefit of the two countries and the region.

The Leaders noted ongoing joint excercise and training as well as coordinated patrol between their Navies and welcomed the decision to hold bilateral joint exercises between their Navies and Air Forces with an endorsement upon the Finalization of Standard Operational Procedure by both Navies and Air Forces. They also noted with appreciation the conduct of the 6th Garuda Shakti Army Exercises involving Special Forces in Bandung from 18 February–3 March 2018 and welcomed growing engagement on military training whilst encouraging greater training interactions at all levels, including regular cadet exchanges. Leaders also noted the desire of both sides to institutionalize cooperation between Indonesian Defence University and National Defence College India.

In the area of defence industry, the Leaders took note on the progress made through the joint production of military equipments. They identified cooperation in defence industry and technology as areas of great potential. They further directed officials of both sides to expand mutually beneficial collaboration between their defence industries for joint production of equipment, technology transfer, technical assistance and capacity building as well as sourcing of defense equipment.

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Page last modified: 02-06-2018 18:32:29 ZULU