Indonesia- India relations

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Defence and maritime cooperation

Indonesia, India plan to develop strategic Indian Ocean port, May 30, 2018: The Times of India


Indonesia and India pledged to step up defence and maritime cooperation.

India and Indonesia will develop infrastructure, including at Sabang Island.

Analysts say India-Indonesia move comes amid concerns over China's rising maritime influence in the region.

Indonesia and India pledged on Wednesday to step up defence and maritime cooperation, with plans to develop a strategic Indonesian naval port in the Indian Ocean, the leaders of the two countries said after meeting in Jakarta.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi + to discuss, among other issues, developing infrastructure and an economic zone at Sabang, on the tip of Sumatra island and at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, one of the busiest shipping channels for global trade.

"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," Widodo told a news conference after the meeting at the presidential palace. Analysts say the move comes amid concerns over China's rising maritime influence in the region, and is part of Modi's "Act East" policy of developing stronger ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"The India-ASEAN partnership can be a force to guarantee peace and progress in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond," PM Modi said in a statement read in Hindi.

Modi, in 2018, invited the leaders of all ten ASEAN nations to attend New Delhi’s Republic Day parade, the biggest such gathering of foreign leaders at the annual event. There has been tension in Southeast Asia over the disputed South China Sea, a busy waterway claimed in most part by China.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the area, through which about $3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods passes every year.

While not a claimant, Indonesia has clashed with Beijing over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands and expanded its military presence there. It has also renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone, to reassert its sovereignty.

PM Modi, who is making his first trip to Indonesia, also visited the Istiqlal mosque in the capital of the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country.

The Indian PM flies to Malaysia on Thursday to meet recently elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad before heading to neighbouring Singapore to address a regional security forum, the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Last week, Indonesia's chief maritime affairs minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, said the existing port at Sabang, which is 40 metres (131 ft) deep, could be developed to accommodate both commercial vessels and submarines, according to media.

Asked about Indian investment in Sabang, Indian foreign ministry official Preeti Saran said New Delhi was interested in helping build infrastructure across Southeast Asia.

"There have been discussions about building infrastructure, it's not just seaports, but airports," she said. "There would be a lot of interest among Indian companies."

Widodo and Modi also signed pacts on cooperation in the pharmaceuticals and techonology industries.

Indian PM’s visit strengthens ties

India, Indonesia join hands to counter expansionist China, May 31, 2018: The Times of India

To Develop Strategic Port, Step Up Defence, Maritime Ties

India and Indonesia will develop a naval port in Sabang, a strategic location on the tip of Sumatra island and at the entrance of the vital Malacca Straits. The move, which comes at a time when China is expanding its maritime footprint in the region, was the most significant decision among a series of other pacts the two sides signed after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joko Widodo during the PM’s first visit to Indonesia.

The two countries also agreed to step up defence and maritime cooperation, with both countries agreeing to align their national maritime policies — India’s Indo-Pacific policy with Indonesia’s policy of ‘global maritime fulcrum’.

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’. “Many of you may never have been to India. I invite you all to come to India for the Kumbh Mela in Prayag next year,” Modi said.

Both countries are finding convergence on the maritime front, largely due to fears of China’s expansionism.

The joint statement also said they would negotiate the resolution 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.” China has encroached on Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone with its ‘nine-dash-line’, to the extent that Indonesia has now renamed its sea the Natuna Sea.

The two countries 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. It’s the first time India has worked out such a shared vision with any Asean country, outlining comprehensive areas of maritime cooperation and security architecture in the Indo-Pacific.

The countries stressed the “importance of achieving a free, open, transparent, rulesbased, peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, where sovereignty and territorial integrity, international law, , 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.

When he was not flying kites with Jokowi, Modi visited the grand Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in south-east Asia, accompanied by Jokowi. Earlier, he visited the Arjuna Wijaya Chariot, which depicts a scene from the Mahabharata.

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