Ahead of summit, Swaraj embarks on ASEAN outreach

It’s the Act East season in India. Ahead of the India-ASEAN summit in Delhi which will mark the silver jubilee of this burgeoning partnership, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has embarked on a three-nation tour of Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
The minister’s ASEAN trip will focus on deepening political, defence and economic ties with these countries that are dynamic economies and have a significant Indian-origin population.
In a unique gesture, India has invited the leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries to participate in the Republic Day celebrations, which underscores the growing salience of the region in India’s foreign policy calculus.

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With China on mind, India, Indonesia firm up maritime nexus

With an eye on China, India and Indonesia, Asia’s most populous democracies and emerging powers, have firmed up a blueprint for enhancing maritime cooperation and resolved to jointly combat terror. In a calculated move that is set to antagonise Beijing, India has backed Indonesia on the latter’s escalating dispute with China on territorial claims in South China Sea.
The talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo in New Delhi on December 12 have culminated in an ambitious joint statement to upscale strategic partnership, with concrete plans for expanding bilateral defence and maritime cooperation. The first visit by Jokowi, as the Indonesian president is popularly known in his country, to India has been closely watched in China, which looks at India’s attempts to forge closer strategic ties with ASEAN countries as part of its calibrated containment strategy.
China was the elephant in the room when PM Modi and his Indonesian counterpart held talks in the Indian capital as both India and Indonesia count China as their largest trading partner, but have unease about Beijing’s hegemonistic intentions. Managing the China challenge without getting into the containment trap is a shared concern for both countries.
The talks rightly prioritised expanding defence and security cooperation as a core priority to actualise the full potential of this sub-optimal relationship. “As two important maritime nations that are also neighbours, we agreed to cooperate to ensure the safety and security of the sea lanes, in disaster response and environmental protection,” said Mr Modi.
Another important takeaway from the latest round of high-profile engagement between the leaders of India and Indonesia was a convergence of positions on terrorism that thrives on sanctuaries provided by states with vested interests.
This strategic concord between Asia’s emerging economies on issues of terrorism and South China Sea is a signal to China that there is not much room for ambivalence and sent a message to the region that the entire Asian hemisphere benefits from a collective approach to regional security.

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Reshaping Indonesia-India relations critical to 21st century Asia

Vibrant democracies, emerging powers, and partners in the unfolding Asian resurgence. India-Indonesia relations have a rich past, and is looking to zoom into a rich future, bristling with possibilities. Co-founders and fellow-travellers of the Non-Aligned Movement, India and Indonesia have imparted a contemporary strategic dimension to their multi-faceted relationship. From President Sukarno gracing the first Republic Day celebrations of 1950 to India hosting Indonesia’s then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations in 2011, the India-Indonesia partnership in the 21st century is acquiring new layers and depth.

The year 2014 saw a change of guard in both New Delhi and Jakarta, propelling self-made politicians from humble backgrounds to the top of the power ladder. The new leaderships in both countries are keen to seize the moment to infuse a new energy and vitality into this robust relationship.

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