PM Modi seeks to deepen India's ties with Indonesia

Economic, maritime issues set to top agenda in Indian leader's first visit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes his first official visit to Indonesia today in a bid to enhance bilateral cooperation in a broad range of areas, including maritime, trade and investment.

Mr Modi will arrive in Jakarta this evening for a three-day visit and will meet President Joko Widodo tomorrow, said Indian Ambassador to Indonesia Pradeep Kumar Rawat.

The two leaders will attend some events, including a CEO Business Forum organised by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and the Industry, and the Confederation of Indian Industry, where they are expected to give their recommendations on how to boost economic partnership.

"The engagement is... very deep. We have been strategic partners since 2005 and as close maritime neighbours, there are issues which concerned both of us in a very fast developing, evolving global situation," Mr Pradeep said.

He said the two leaders will also share their thoughts on the Indo-Pacific strategy and terrorism. He noted that they held similar views on the two issues, in addition to maritime safety and security.

The Indo-Pacific strategy describes an emerging alliance between the United States, India, Australia and Japan that is seen in some quarters as a means to contain China.Other issues expected to be discussed include trade and investment, defence and people-to-people connectivity.

Also on Mr Modi's agenda is a meeting with the Indian community in Indonesia.

The Indian leader's visit is part of his five-day trip to South-east Asia, which includes a stopover in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday to meet newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, before heading to Singapore to meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

India is Indonesia's largest trading partner in South Asia and fourth biggest trading partner in the world. Bilateral trade reached US$18.13 billion (S$24.3 billion) last year, up nearly 40 per cent from 2016, with Indonesia posting a US$10.04 billion surplus, according to data from Indonesia's trade ministry.

India was the 16th biggest foreign investor in Indonesia, spending US$286.6 million in the past year, said Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board.

Both countries aim to grow two-way trade to US$50 billion by 2025, while two-way investment is expected to hit US$50 billion.

The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's chairman for international relations, Ms Shinta Kamdani, said the business group would sign a cooperation agreement with the Confederation of Indian Industry .

"The cooperation is to boost investment and trade to achieve the (trade and investment) goal," she said without elaborating.

Correction note: An earlier version of the story stated that the bilateral trade increase was 22.34 per cent. It should be nearly 40 per cent. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2018, with the headline 'PM Modi seeks to deepen India's ties with Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe