India and Indonesia vow to expand collaboration in defence and maritime security

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The partnership between two maritime neighbours India and Indonesia, deeply rooted in bilateral and multilateral cooperation, underscores Jakarta’s pivotal role in the Indo-Pacific landscape and New Delhi’s Act East Policy, which is the upgrade of the “Look East Policy."

Act East Policy, announced in November 2014, is India's diplomatic initiative to promote economic, strategic and cultural relations with the vast Asia-Pacific region at different levels.

India and Indonesia, the largest country in Southeast Asia, expressed satisfaction at the expanding scope of defence cooperation between the two nations at the 7th India-Indonesia Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) meeting held in New Delhi on Friday (May 3).

The JDCC meeting was co-chaired by Indian Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane and Secretary General of the Indonesian Ministry of Defence, Air Marshal Donny Ermawan Taufanto.

The progress made on various bilateral defence cooperation initiatives deliberated in meetings of Working Groups on Defence Cooperation and Defence Industries Cooperation was reviewed by the co-chairs during the meeting.

Means to enhance existing areas of collaboration especially in the field of defence industry ties, maritime security and multilateral cooperation were also identified in the JDCC meeting.

According to an article published by the East-West Center, India views Indonesia as a strategic partner that can play an important role in its Act East Policy.

These two nations are close geographic neighbours who share a maritime boundary and a mutual stake in each other's progress, prosperity, stability, and territorial integrity, and the two countries face similar challenges as pluralistic democracies and developing societies, as per the article.

The cooperation in the area of defence and security between India and Indonesia commenced soon after independence of both nations.

In the initial stages, the defence cooperation was robust under which several Indonesian Air Force personnel received training in India.

India and Indonesia have a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and have arrived at a shared vision of the Indo-Pacific.

According to the Consulate General of India in Indonesia, New Delhi and Jakarta have robust cooperation in the area of defence and security.

The first Agreement on Cooperative Activities in the Field of Defence between the two countries was signed in 2001 and ratified by the Indonesian parliament in December 2006. This agreement was valid till Dec 2016.

A new Defence Cooperation Agreement was signed to reflect the elevation of the relationship between the two countries to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2018.

The new Defence Cooperation Agreement emphasized on exchange of strategic information sharing and cooperation in science and technology security.

Activities relating to cooperation in the area of defence and security are regularly monitored and new areas discussed during the Biennial Defence Ministers Dialogue, the annual Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) meetings and the service level Staff Talks, according to officials.

The commencement of Air Force to Air Force Staff Talks; increasing the frequency of Navy to Navy Staff Talks; participation of Special Forces in the annual bilateral Army Exercise ‘Garuda Shakti; and the conduct of specialised training for Indonesian Navy and Indonesian Air Force are the outcomes of a deepening bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries.

During the 6th JDCC held in August 2018, both countries agreed to commence Naval and Air Force bilateral exercises.

The first bilateral naval exercise between India and Indonesia ‘Samudra Shakti’ was held in November 2018 at Indonesia's Surabaya, the second edition at Visakhapatnam and in the Bay of Bengal in Nov 2019 and the third edition in Sep 2021 at Jakarta and the Sunda Straits.

In a further emphasis on engagement in the maritime domain, an MoU on Maritime Safety and Security between the Indian Coast Guard and the Indonesian Bakamla was signed in July 2020.

Meanwhile, since 2016, there is a clear upward trend in attempts to augment cooperation in the area of defence industry also, according to the Indian Embassy in Jakarta.

Ministerial level discussions between India and Indonesia were also held across 2018 and 2019 on augmenting defence industry cooperation although no contractual matters could be concluded.

This agenda received a new fillip in 2020 with the Deputy Defence Minister’s visit to Def Expo at Lucknow in Feb 2020 followed by the Defence Minister’s visit to New Delhi in July 2020, as per the Indian Embassy in Indonesia.

Some key areas of cooperation have been identified and are currently being worked upon by concerned parties, the embassy added.

In current times, the partnership between the two countries is characterised by closed cooperation in bilateral and multilateral arena, including frequent high-level interactions.

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