Indonesia, India Plan To Develop Strategic Port

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JAKARTA |

Indonesia and India pledged to step up defense 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 Indian 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.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviews an honour guard accompanied by Indonesia President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace in Jakarta.

“India is a strategic defense 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).

Modi this year 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.

 

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

 

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

The Indian leader flies to Malaysia to meet recently elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad before heading to neighboring 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 meters (131 ft) deep, could be developed to accommodate both commercial vessels and submarines, according to media.

Sabang Port

Indonesia’s transport minister told reporters that the Sabang would get a transhipment port that could be developed over two years.

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.”

Countering terrorism has emerged as a key common challenge in the comprehensive strategic partnership (CSP) between India and Indonesia during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bilateral visit to Indonesia.

Both nations agreed to find common ground on the rise of religious identities, dynamic of pluralism and eradication of radicalism, terrorism and violent extremism. The two leaders reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including cross–border terrorism.

 

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

 

They also committed themselves to bringing to justice the perpetrators of heinous acts of terror.

In the context of Pakistan, the declaration to become all the more important as Comprehensive Strategic Partnership envisages disruption of terror networks and their finance channels with the halting of cross–border movement of terrorists from terror organisations.

Both Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo also called for expeditious finalisation and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in order to strengthen the existing International counter–terrorism legal framework.

To this effect, both India and Indonesia have also agreed to organise an inter–faith dialogue in Indonesia in early October 2018, which will be followed by a similar dialogue in 2019.

 

Sabang would get a transhipment port that could be developed over two years. Asked about Indian investment in Sabang, Indian foreign ministry official Preeti Saran said New Delhi was interested in helping build infrastructure across Southeast Asia – building infrastructure, it’s not just seaports, but airports

 

To cement this bond both countries will commemorate 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between both the countries. India and Indonesia through this bilateral have elevated their association from Strategic Partnership to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Both nations have also committed themselves to notch up trading between them to 50 billion US dollars by 2025. CII too will also open its branch in Jakarta as part of larger comprehensive understanding.

Both nations committed themselves to build connectivity and encourage people to people contact. The leaders of both the nations also welcomed the plan to build connectivity between Andaman Nicobar–Aceh to unleash economic potentials of both areas.

Special emphasis was also laid on cultural connection and importance of tourism for both the countries.

Both India and Indonesia also reiterated their commitment to the rule–based system in the Indo–Pacific region which is reeling under Chinese military build–up. The document also outlined the concept freedom of navigation in the area. ■

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