Prof. Baladas Ghoshal, Secretary General, Society for Indian Ocean Studies; Former Professor and Chair in Southeast Asian Studies, JNU was invited as a guest speaker. Amb Asoke K Mukerji, India’s former Representative to the United Nations presided and Dr. Vijay Chauthaiwale, In-charge of Foreign Affairs department Bharatiya Janata Party was invited by Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (SPMRF) for a discussion on ‘Prime Minister’s recent visit to Indonesia’.The idea behind shadowing his visit was to get a larger policy perspective for the diplomatic relations between India and Indonesia.
Prof. Baladas Ghoshal apprised the participants of the discussion with the strategic geographic positioning of the two countries. Indonesia being 80 nautical miles from the Andaman & Nicobar Islands making it closer to Indonesia than any other part of India. With a coastline of 7,500 kms, with more than 1,380 islands and more than two million sq. km of exclusive economic zone. India occupying a central position in the Indo-Pacific, while Indonesia as the largest archipelagic state in the world, with a coastline of 108,000 kms, with 17,504 islands and a total of maritime areas of 6,400,000 sq. km including exclusive economic zone, is a fulcrum that connects the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. He also discussed Indonesia’s struggle in attaining independence from the Dutch colonial rule and the deep impact it left on their polity and on historic perspectives on what brought India and Indonesia closer since 1940.
Amb Asoke K Mukerji mentioned that the two nations are the rising powers of Asia and there is a need for economic cooperation between the two nations in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, infrastructure and manufacturing. Dr. Vijay Chauthaiwale added to the discussion by mentioning about a special kite exhibition organized by the kite museum of Jakarta in collaboration with Gujarat museum as a cultural exchange programme during Prime Minister Modi’s visit. He added by talking about the importance of the two nations to connect through cultural exchange programmes.
They discussed Prime Minister Modi’s intend for visiting his counter part in Indonesia, which was broadly to strengthen the combined maritime trade and commerce. The two nations mutual stake in each other’s progress, prosperity, stability, territorial integrity, as pluralistic democracies, developing societies and the challenges faced by both the countries was discussed during Prime Minister visit. It was highlighted during the discussion that the visit strengthened the role of Indian Ocean andemphasis was laid on achieving joint vision in Maritime coordination, security and capacity building of the Ocean and steering Indonesia’s approach to directly form a cooperation with India instead of engaging through regional frame work. It came to light that a soft power approach was used by Indian diplomats to strengthen the diplomatic ties between the two nations along with shaping new possibilities for importing Indonesian natural resources. The discussion was summarized by appreciating Prime Minister Modi’s unconventional ways of expressing friendship towards Indonesia which will help India to strengthen their position in maritime trade with Indonesia as well as other South Asian countries.