Indonesia calls for stronger trade links
Ties with India at their best in seven decades, says ambassador
New Delhi: Indonesia’s ambassador to India, Sidharto Reza Suryodipuro, on Wednesday called for the diversification of bilateral trade with India from exports of palm oil and coal, to cooperation in high-tech areas and increased connectivity links, as the two countries look to push trade from the existing $20 billion to $50 billion by 2025.
The current phase of ties between Asia’s third and seventh largest economies was the “best” in the seven decades since the two countries established diplomatic ties, Suryodipuro said at a seminar on “India-Indonesia relations@70”, organised by the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library research facility in New Delhi.
“If we are ambitious, if we want to triple or quadruple trade relations, we have to go beyond natural resources,” said Suryodipuro.
“Today India is Indonesia’s largest market for palm oil and coal. We (Indonesia) enjoyed $10 billion of trade surplus last year. We cannot rely on palm oil. How much palm oil can India consume? There is a limit to it. So we need to move beyond natural resources. We need to have direct maritime linkages, more direct flights,” he said. Though Indonesian carriers were flying to India, Indian carriers were yet to fly to Indonesia, the ambassador said.
One way the two countries could boost existing trade numbers is when Indonesia ratifies the India-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Free Trade Agreement in services and investments, said Prabir De, a professor at the New Delhi-based think tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries.
Concluded in 2012, the pact has to be ratified by all 10 Asean members before it comes into force. Indonesia and Cambodia were seen as the two holdouts with Jakarta concerned about the movement of people if the services sector were to be opened up according to the provisions of the treaty.
Ties between India and Indonesia received a major boost last month with Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying his first visit to Jakarta. The two countries had then upgraded bilateral relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” by signing 15 pacts, including one on defence cooperation.
A joint statement said that the two leaders welcomed the adoption of the “Shared Vision on Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific between India and Indonesia”.
On Wednesday, Suryodipuro called for more discussions on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)—seen as significant, given Jakarta’s position on Chinese claims over the entire South China Sea.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea as its exclusive economic zone, but this is contested by countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines.
Last year, Indonesia had renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea, seen as an act of resistance to Chinese territorial ambitions. India’s position that UNCLOS should be respected by all parties to the dispute is seen as supportive of the Asean countries’ claims in the South China Sea dispute.
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