Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 11
Indonesia, a prominent player in the Asia-Pacific, on Monday indicated its preference to expand military ties with India but remained wary of joining an expanded version of Quad, a four-country alliance that aims to check China.
“I think countries would establish their layers of diplomacy based on how they look at their environment and each country’s perspective of the environment would be different,’’ said outgoing Ambassador of Indonesia to India Sidharto Reza Suryodipuro in his address to the Ananta Aspen Centre on being asked about Jakarta’s view on talk about the Quad ‘s interest in expanding its alliance of four democracies.
“In terms of military cooperation, we have strengthened from coordinated patrol in the Andaman Sea, that has been going on at least for the past 17 years. We have army-to-army exercises, navy-to-navy, and soon we will start air force to air force,’’ he said.
Indonesia has signed on 28 projects worth $ 91 billion to be financed under the BRI China’s Belt and Road Initiative, according to Indonesia Vice President Jusuf Kalla. These include a $ 1.6bn dam in Sumatra and a $ 6 bn high-speed rail project between Jakarta and Bandung.
The Ambassador felt the economic leg of the bilateral ties needed to be strengthened. Two-way trade had reached $20 billion of which about $ 10 billion was palm oil and coal exports from Indonesia to India and the remaining $10 billion is what is traded on both sides.
“We are punching far below our weight in terms of the size of our countries. Indonesia is India’s largest neighbour after China. We need to build closer business-to-business relationships, universities-to-universities, think-thanks to think-tanks, people-to-people, we need to build this by setting up direct connectivity,’’ he said.
On connectivity through the Malacca channel, the envoy advocated smaller ships instead of huge container vessels. “It can be direct between the coasts of India with the ports in Sumatra, Java, it does not have to be super cargo ships,” he observed.
“Now the situation in the region calls for greater Indian and Indonesian partnership, collaboration and will provide the basis for the region’s stability and prosperity, after all we are the largest and second-largest countries of the Indo-Pacific. So we’ll set the tone for that as well,” observed the envoy.