Saturday, June 18, 2011


India and Indonesia will anchor their five-year-old strategic partnership by beefing up counter-terrorism cooperation with an extradition treaty and a pact on preventing drug trafficking that will be signed during Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s visit starting 25 January.

India, one of the world’s fastest growing emerging economies, and Indonesia, a secular democracy with the world’s largest Muslim population that will be taking over the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), are also hoping to launch talks to finalize a comprehensive economic partnership agreement that is expected to boost bilateral trade from the present $12 billion (Rs.54,480 crore) level.

Yudhoyono, who previously visited India in 2005 when the two countries elevated their ties to a strategic partnership, is the chief guest for India’s 62nd Republic Day celebrations on 26 January. Indonesia’s first president Sukarno was the chief guest at India’s first Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 1950.

“This is an important visit for us from the historic point of view,” Leonard Hutabarat, first secretary in the Indonesian embassy in New Delhi, told reporters here on Friday.

“There are discussions on for concluding eight to 10 pacts in areas like education, science and technology, and IT. There will be an extradition pact and another on prevention of drug trafficking” that are expected to be signed during the visit, he said. The extradition and prevention of drug trafficking pacts “will provide the foundation for future cooperation in counter-terrorism, given that such crimes are transnational in nature today”, Hutabarat said, recalling that India and Indonesia had signed a memorandum of understanding on counter-terrorism in 2004.

From India’s point of view, “Indonesia is a pivotal country in South-East Asia. It is part of Asean, it has the largest Muslim population in the world, but it is also a pluralistic democracy, a mosaic of different ethnic and religious groups, which makes it similar to India”, said an Indian foreign ministry official who did not want to be named. India has the second largest Muslim population in the world and is battling an Islamic insurgency in Kashmir. “Indonesia is also a close neighbour as the Andaman chain of islands is some 80km from Indonesia’s nearest outlying island. Like us, Indonesia has had problems with terrorism, but it has also had success in fighting it,” the official added.

According to Hutabarat, Indonesian authorities have uncovered links between incidents of terrorism on Indonesian soil and Afghanistan in the past. During talks with Indian leaders in New Delhi, terrorism will be one of the issues on the table, he said.

Indonesia is also a member of the Group of Twenty grouping of developed and developing countries formed in the wake of the global economic crisis three years ago. “The country clocked 5.6% growth last year and is looking to grow at 7% in the next few years,” said Hutabarat.

Cementing the strategic partnership are joint patrols by the Indonesian and Indian navies in the pirate-infested Straits of Malacca, a key route for east-bound energy supplies meant for countries such as China and Japan. India has also been training Indonesian air force personnel for ground support duties for Sukhoi aircraft, Hutabarat said.

Indonesia is also looking at the way India’s National Human Rights Commission, National Disaster Management Authority and Election Commission work, an is interested in closer cooperation in these areas to bolster its institutions, he said.