India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just completed another of his ‘Act East’ expansionist visits, signing nine government-government (G2G) agreements with Indonesia, with 25 business-to-business(B2B) agreements signed on the sidelines.
Agreements signed by the two governments covered a wide range of areas, including defence, capacity building in Indonesia’s growing railway sector, scientific and cultural exchanges, and increased capacity building in the area of public governance.
In addition the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is to open its first overseas Office in Jakarta, with a representative from India. The Indonesian office will be the CII’s 77th globally.
India & Indonesia to Be Regional Stabilising Force
|Indonesia blows up Chinese boats fishing illegally in its part of the maritime claims Video United News International|
In a joint statement issued late last week Prime Minister’s Modi and Joko Widodo announced plans for a comprehensive strategic partnership on maritime cooperation between the two countries, saying the pair ‘can be a force of immense stability in the region.
‘We agree to step up our strategic partnership to comprehensive strategic partnership and, with that, bilateral relations between Indonesia and India will become stronger and better’, the statement added.
In a tweet sent by Prime Minister Modi he said ‘We discussed areas of strategic cooperation, ways towards ensuring better ties and closer cultural relations between our nation’.
Indonesia is India’s largest trading partner in Southeast Asia with total bilateral trade valued at over $18 billion in 2017. It is expected that bilateral trade between the two nations will double to US$50 billion by 2025. Some 7,000 Indian nationals are believed to reside throughout the archipelago.
India’s strengthening ties with Indonesia come against a backdrop of rising geopolitical tensions in the region in the wake of Chinese missile deployments in the South China Sea.(See: War: Philippines Says it Will Fight if ‘Red Line’ Crossed… With what?)
Indonesia has in the past blown up and sunk Chinese boats found illegally fishing in its waters. In July 2017 Indonesia renamed a portion of the South China Sea off the coast of Natuna Islands to ‘North Natuna Sea’, angering China who claims almost all of the South China Sea.
In the announcement late last week the two leaders said they planned to conduct regular bilateral naval exercises and continue the coordinated patrols that began in 2002.
Act East, New India Policies
Indonesia is just the latest focus of Prime Minister Modi’s “Act East” policy and vision for a ‘New India’.
Earlier this year India highlighted its strengthening relationship with Cambodia during the Asean-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi.
Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen invited Mr Modi to visit Cambodia and to provide election monitors for the July Cambodia general election.
Last week India Commerce and Industry Minister, Suresh Prabhu, announced plans by India to build a medical college and hospital in Phnom Penh.
Additionally he said India plans to build a multi-speciality hospital and an education institute in Myanmar, and a pharma unit in Vietnam as part of its plan to strengthen economic ties with the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) region. All projects are slated to be built on a PPP basis.
Additionally the ‘5th India CLMV Business conclave’ seminar held last week in Phnom Penh by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry in collaboration with the Embassy of India extolled the virtues of cross-border investment opportunities, reciprocal investments opportunities, and investment opportunities in CLMV economies
Conducted over two days the seminar highlighted the need for greater connectivity, promotion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and harnessing the opportunities in the services sector, particularly in health care, tourism, transportation, and logistics industries.
Prior to leaving Indonesia the Indian prime minister reached out to the estimated 100,000 Indonesians of Indian descent, calling on them to visit India, and also offered a 30-day free visa for Indonesian citizens to also experience the ‘New India’.
“Not only do the names of our nations rhyme but also there is a distinct rhythm in the India-Indonesia friendship. We will grant free of cost visa for Indonesian citizens for travel of up to 30 days,” Mr Modi said.
Prime Minister Modi is up for reelection in 2019 and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suffered recent backlashes due to recent child rapes/murders, currency shortages, rising unemployment and inflation, a crash in commodity prices and surging fuel costs..
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- India, Indonesia agree to nearly triple bilateral trade to USD 50 billion (Business World)
- Indonesia, India upgrade ties with 15 agreements (The News Tribune)
- Modi Invites Indian Diaspora in Indonesia to Be Part of ‘New India’ (Jakarta Globe)