India celebrates its Independence Day on Aug. 15, two days before Indonesia’s Independence Day. Indonesia was among the first countries to recognize India’s independence. The Jakarta Post’s Mustaqim Adamrah interviewed Indian Ambassador Biren Nanda about bilateral relations between the two countries. Below are excerpts of the interview:
Question: What are the latest developments in bilateral relations between Indonesia and India?
Answer: The highlight of this year is the visit of President [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono to India in January 2011. He was a chief guest for the occasion of our republic day, on Jan. 26, 2011.
It came five years after the previous visit of President Yudhoyono in 2005, when our prime minister and President Yudhoyono made a joint declaration and established a new strategic partnership.
And during these past five years, our trade has more than doubled, now in fact has increased almost three times.
In 2005, the trade was about US$4 billion, now it’s nearly $15 billion in 2010. Our financial year is from April to March. So, in the period of April 2010 to March 2011, bilateral trade was $14.8 billion.
We have close relations in the fields of politics, security, economics, culture, science and technology.
During the second visit of President Yudhoyono, we signed 16 agreements and issued a joint statement and also signed 18 commercial agreements involving investment in Indonesia in sectors such as manufacturing, infrastructure, resources and services.
The agreements themselves are very encouraging covering the area of security. For example, there is an extradition treaty; there’s a mutual legal assistance treaty on criminal matters.
Currently, there’s an MoU (memorandum of understanding) between the financial intelligence unit of India and PPATK (Indonesia Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre) of Indonesia for the exchange of intelligence on money laundering and terrorist financing.
Then we have an MoU on science and technology cooperation; we’re identifying joint projects for working on between the two countries.
How important is it to have agreements on extradition and mutual legal assistance?
I think it’s important because our economic relation increases, improves, as trading increases, and ties become more intense. Both countries will have to have proper legal frameworks.
Have any Indonesian fugitives fled to India after signing the agreements on extradition and mutual legal assistance?
Not so far. After the treaty was signed, we have not received any requests.
What is the latest development in bilateral comprehensive economic cooperation agreement between India and Indonesia?
During the visit of your President, we announced that we would also discuss a bilateral comprehensive economic cooperation agreement with Indonesia.
We have signed a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement with Malaysia, which is an FTA [free trade agreement] in goods, services and investment. We are in the process of negotiating a similar agreement with Thailand. With Singapore, we have had such an agreement since 2005.
We will begin negotiating the bilateral FTA [with Indonesia] this year. We hope we will able to conclude negotiations within a year. We are going to begin the process this month.
Are there any other economic cooperations between India and Indonesia that were discussed during Yudhoyono’s visit to India?
During Yudhoyono’s visit, we also signed a new air services agreement.
We had an old air services agreement, but that agreement was basically only government carriers on both sides. But now we have private carriers in Indonesia and private carriers in India.
At the moment, we don’t have a direct flight between India and Indonesia non-stop. We have flights via Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, but not [direct ones]. We used to have [direct flights], but not at the moment.
Airlines are considering resuming direct flights because people-to-people exchanges are a very important aspect in our strategic partnership.