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Widodo-Modi Friendship Kite Flies High In Jakarta – OpEd

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday began his five-day three-nation tour to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. He began in Jakarta, marking his first official state visit to Indonesia. The visit is momentous as it came in the backdrop of 70 years of diplomatic ties between India and Indonesia.

Raveesh Kumar, official spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, tweeted: “Reinvigorating ties with a maritime neighbor! PM Narendra Modi accorded ceremonial welcome on his first-ever visit to Indonesia. India & Indonesia share millennia-old contacts driven by merchants & religious figures sailing across the Indian Ocean during monsoon.”

Here are the 10 takeaways from the two-day visit by Narendra Modi to Indonesia:

  1. The two leaders covenanted to boost defense and maritime cooperation, with plans of launching a tactical Indonesian seaport in the Indian Ocean. They also conversed about developing infrastructure and an economic zone in Sabang, on the northern tip of Sumatra, which is less than a 100 nautical miles away from the Indian-administered Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  2. They also agreed to take crucial steps to increase connectivity between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Indonesian provinces in Sumatra to stimulate maritime commerce, the leisure industry and people-to-people interactions and expedite business-to-business linkages among the Chamber of Commerce of Andaman and their counterparts in the provinces of Sumatra, including Aceh.
  3. They approved elevating bilateral relations to the level of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership by formally signing more than a dozen agreements encompassing wide range of spheres of influence. Fifteen agreements were signed, which covered formation of a bilateral security forum, greater defense cooperation, cooperation in exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, maritime affairs, trade and investment, science and technology, capacity building of public officials, dialogue and interaction between governments and think-tanks, as well as in health and railways.
  4. To establish strong air connectivity, the two leaders applauded direct flights by Garuda Indonesia between Bali and Mumbai, which began in April, as well as the flights by Batik Air and Air Asia Indonesia serving Indian and Indonesian cities. They directed their respective civil-aviation agencies to hold a deliberation over the matter of enhancing traffic rights through bilateral air-services consultation, which will take place this year.
  5. President Joko Widodo hailed the growth in Indian investment in Indonesia and its productive impact on the Indonesian economy. Prime Minister Modi also applauded the involvement of Indonesian enterprises through the “Make in India” initiative and invited more Indonesian establishments to take advantage of the offered opportunities. Both leaders agree to step up their efforts to take bilateral trade to US$50 billion by 2025.
  6. Modi and Widodo highlighted the significance of a free, open, transparent, rules-based and peaceful Indo-Pacific region, in the midst of China stretching its influence in the strategic East and South China Seas. They released a document outlining the areas of maritime cooperation and envisaging a larger security framework in the Indo-Pacific region.
  7. The two leaders condemned terrorism in all forms, as well as cross-border terrorism and terror-related pogroms in both countries, and declared that perpetrators of these acts must be brought to justice. Both leaders also acknowledged that terrorism should not be linked with any religion, creed, nationality or ethnicity.
  8. They agreed to organize an inter-faith dialogue in Indonesia in October that will be followed by an analogous dialogue next year. The inter-faith dialogue is an echo of the joint obligation of both countries to reconnoitre a new understanding on the rise of religious identities and the dynamic of pluralism and to get rid of radicalism, terrorism and violent extremism.
  9. The leaders applauded the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Layang-layang Museum in Jakarta and the Kite Museum of Ahmedabad for organizing annual kite festivals and noted with gratitude the holding of the First Joint Kite Exhibition on the theme of Ramayana and Mahabharata at the National Monument in Jakarta.
  10. Modi announced a 30-day free visa for Indonesian citizens and invited the Indian diaspora to travel to their country of origin to experience the “New India.” He also invited them to make the Kumbh Mela Hindu pilgrimage to Prayag in Allahabad next year.
On Thursday, Modi was due to stop in Kuala Lumpur, where he would meet newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and discuss improving bilateral relations.

On Friday, he is to fly to Singapore to deliver the keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue. He is the first Indian prime minister to be invited to the event, one of the world’s most important security dialogues. He will also hold a summit meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and call on Singapore President Halimah Yacob.

Modi’s visit to Indonesia has enhanced not only India’s bilateral ties with Indonesia but also the dynamic Act East Policy. His visit is viewed as a tactical shift in ties with Indonesia, in the backdrop of China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The three-nation visit will indeed have positive impacts in the near future.

*Abhishek Mohanty is studying M.A Politics: International and Area Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He is a Junior Research Associate at German Southeast Asian Center of Excellence for Public Policy and Good Governance- Bangkok, Junior Researcher at Center for Southeast Asian Studies- Jakarta, and Research Intern at Centre for Vietnam Studies- New Delhi. He is a member of Kalinga-Lanka Foundation. Research interests include critical analysis of foreign policies, regional and global issues of Indo-Pacific countries.

This article was published at Asia Times.


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