President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the chief guest at the Indian Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on Jan. 26. It is a great tribute to the ever-lasting friendship between the two countries, which began in the pre-independence days of Indonesia.
The friendship between the first Indonesian president Sukarno with the first Indian prime minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru is well-known. Nehru played a very important role in helping Indonesia gaining independence and subsequently nurturing the friendship between the two nations.
President Yudhoyono’s visit to India in 2005 elevated this friendship to the level of strategic partnership. No doubt, the current visit by the President will further boost these relationships.
India and Indonesia, tied up with old cultural links, have many similarities between them, like multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies which are great strengths to the respective countries.
Both are among the largest democracies in the world with free media, which is very important in the functioning of democratic societies.
Being members of the G20 group, both the countries can play a very significant role in shaping the world economy. With the healthy GDP growth rate of more than 6.5 percent, Indonesia has the potential of joining BRICS, another club of the fast emerging economies.
Both countries also face many similar problems. Despite being headed by persons of very high personal integrity, Yudhoyono and Manmohan Singh, the most crucial problem is the endemic corruption that is eating into their economic development.
Infrastructure development, alleviating poverty, balancing inter-religious/cultural interests, etc. are some of the areas where both the leaders can share their experiences and learn from each other.
Their economies can also be inter-woven in many areas. The bilateral trade and investment can be raised many notches higher than the targeted US$15 billion with proper coordination and cooperation.
India has emerged as the largest buyer of Indonesian palm oil and is one of the largest buyers of Indonesian coal. With the signing and activation of the Free Trade Agreement between India and ASEAN, there is scope for further significant increase in the bilateral trade.
There are many areas where mutual cooperation can be explored, like IT, financial services, joint oil and gas explorations, defense, anti-terrorism, etc. With sincere efforts from both sides, India and Indonesia can move forward, hand in hand.