New Delhi: India and Indonesia on Wednesday agreed to upgrade bilateral relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership" by signing 15 pacts, including one on defence cooperation. The two countries also called for freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region with an eye on the rise of China.

Both sides have also set a trade goal of $50 billion by 2025, compared to $18 billion in 2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrived in Jakarta late Tuesday on his first official visit to the country, was warmly welcomed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the Merdeka Palace.

“Held productive discussions with President Joko Widodo. Glad that ties between India and Indonesia are gaining strong momentum. We discussed areas of strategic cooperation, ways towards ensuring better economic ties and closer cultural relations between our nations," Modi later said in a Twitter post.

At a joint press event, Modi said India and Indonesia had agreed to elevate their ties to “comprehensive strategic partnership." India’s Act East policy and the vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) matched Widodo’s Maritime Fulcrum vision, the prime minister said.

“As mutual partners and neighbours, our worries are similar. It is our duty to ensure maritime security and safety. This is also for the safety of our economic interests," Modi said. “In the Indo-Pacific region, we, as partners, have mutual interests in each other’s progress and well-being, and that is why we have agreed on mutual vision and principles for the Indo-Pacific region."

Recalling the visit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders in January for a commemorative summit, marking 25 years of India’s ties with the Asean, Modi said the partnership with the grouping can become a guarantee of peace not only in the Indo-Pacific region, but beyond.

A joint statement said the two leaders welcomed the adoption of the “Shared Vision on Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific between India and Indonesia".

“The two leaders welcomed the growing convergence in the political, strategic, defence, security and economic fields between the two countries," the document said.

This was the first such initiative with any Asean country and outlines areas of maritime cooperation and envisages a security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar later said.

In the joint statement, both leaders underlined the importance of achieving a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region where “sovereignty, international law, freedom of navigation and overflight, sustainable development and an open and fair trade and investment system are respected". The move comes against the backdrop of China flexing its military muscles in the East and South China seas.

Modi also condemned the recent terrorist attacks on three churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city Surabaya, and said India stood with Jakarta in its fight against terrorism. In the joint statement, both leaders reiterated their strong condemnation of “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism and terror-related incidents in Indonesia and India, and affirmed that perpetrators of these heinous acts must be brought to justice". The 15 agreements signed by the two countries covered space, science and technology, railways and health besides defence.

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