After gap of more than five decades, Asia’s two biggest democracies — India and Indonesia — have once again pushed their relations in 2009 to an historic high with numerous activities and increased ties in the economic and cultural spheres.
The last time both countries enjoyed this kind of relationship was in the 1950s, when they worked closely to organize the historic Bandung Conference in 1955.
Throughout 2009, though, both countries organized numerous seminars, exhibitions, festivals and high-level visits to strengthen bilateral relations.
Much of the credit goes to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who decided to establish a strategic partnership between the two Asian giants in 2005 in New Delhi and put them on a high trajectory.
The work done by Indian Ambassador to Indonesia Biren Nanda and Indonesian Ambassador to India Lt. Gen. (ret) Andi M. Ghalib and their staff in Jakarta and New Delhi was also commendable.
“Both ambassadors did a good job to foster the relations between the two countries,” said Paul Mukundan, a prominent Indian businessman in Indonesia.
The most significant development was in the economic sector.
“India’s trade and investment relations with Indonesia continued to develop rapidly during the year,” Ambassador Nanda said.
“Between 2005 and 2008, there was an increase in bilateral trade from US$4 billion to $10 billion.”
The growing trade ties have not been too badly affected by the present global financial crisis. In the first nine months of 2009, bilateral trade was valued at $6.82 billion, or a 12.16 percent decrease from the $7.76 billion recorded in the same period in 2008.
Several new Indian investors have made inroads in Indonesia in recent years, investing in banking, mining, oil and gas, iron and steel, aluminium, automotive, textiles, IT and telecommunications.
In an effort to enhance economic links, the Indian Embassy in Jakarta, with the help of business organizations, held the “Made in India” exhibition in August 2009, followed by “India Invest” (October), the “Lifestyle Products” exhibition (November) and the “Indian Engineering Exhibition 2009” (December).
“These [events] constitute great opportunities and potential for both countries to enhance cooperation for concrete results of mutual benefit in the future,” Ambassador Andi said.
India, he went on, had changed a lot in recent years in every aspect. The whole world is looking toward Asia’s third-largest economy and Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, is lagging in this race.
“The mind-set of Indonesian businesspeople toward India must change,” Andi, who has already visited more than two-thirds of India’s provinces, told The Jakarta Post recently.
The Indian economy, he said, was still growing despite the global downturn.
“Despite the global economic downturn, India’s economic growth increased significantly, supported by its huge domestic market [of 1.1 billion people] and enormous opportunities for trade and commerce,” he said.
“Hence, India enjoys relatively stable growth.”
The year 2009, Nanda said, began with the visit of then House of Regional Representatives speaker Ginandjar Kartasasmita (January) to India, followed by then House of Representatives speaker Agung Laksono (February), then health minister Siti Fadilah Supari (August), Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu (September) and then energy and mineral resources minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro (September).
Last month, People’s Consultative Assembly Deputy Speakers Hajriyanto Y. Thohari and Lukman Hakim Saefuddin visited India to boost inter-parliamentary cooperation between the two countries.
From the Indian side, Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma, Minister of Housing, Urban Poverty Alleviation and Tourism Kumari Selja, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi and Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers M.K. Alagiri visited Indonesia in 2009.
In the defense sector, Nanda said, Indian Army Chief of Staff Deepak Kapoor visited Indonesia in February 2009 and India sent two ships to participate in the International Fleet Review in Manado.
There was also an important annual event.
“The Indian and Indonesian navies conducted two coordinated patrols along the international maritime border at the mouth of the Malacca Strait during the year,” Nanda said.
The biggest event of the year was the “Festival of India” — a yearlong event showcasing Indian music, dance, arts and food to Indonesians in various cities. This was jointly organized by the embassy, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Indian Department of Culture.
With strong mandates for both Prime Minister Singh and President Yudhoyono in recent elections,the appointments of new foreign ministers in both countries and the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and ASEAN in August 2009, the relations and cooperation between India and Indonesia are poised to not only strengthen further but also spread to new areas in 2010.
Source: JAKARTA POST