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    Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (L) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive for a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India December 12, 2016

    India, Indonesia to Add Ballast to Ties With Frequent Top Level Meetings

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    Two countries with the world’s highest Muslim populations are trying to intensify bilateral ties with frequent high level meetings including an annual summit, defense dialogue, more cooperation on terrorism and drug abuse, coordinating positions on South China Sea and cooperation to promote peaceful Islam.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) India and Indonesia on Monday considered concrete steps to improve bilateral ties through several vectors. A meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Indonesian President Joe Wikodo resolved to rely on high level meetings to add more depth to their ties.

    These will include an annual summit besides initiating interaction at the level of Defense, Trade and Energy Ministers before the first half of next year. By then, they also hope to convene separate high level dialogues on energy and security cooperation.

    Significantly the two sides with a combined Muslim population of 380 million also discussed cooperation between them to promote Islam as a religion of peace. “A cooperation to promote Islam that is peaceful and rahmatan lil ‘alamin [blessing for the whole world and its content],’’ said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. The Indonesian President held the talks on Islam with the Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari who is also a Muslim. Indonesia is a country with the largest Muslim population while India ranks second with its Muslim population of 170 million.

    A joint statement released after the Modo-Wikodo meeting pointed at commonalities in their position on maritime security and South China Sea, another important area of cooperation.

    India-Indonesia ties had not take off in the past because Jakarta sided with Islamabad owing to their large populations. As Indonesia had laid claims to Anadamn & Nicobar Islands in the past, it had supported Pakistan in its wars with India in 1965 and 1971.

    Modi also noted that "as the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia stands for democracy, diversity, pluralism, and social harmony. These are also our values."

    The cooperation in these two areas – religion and maritime security – suggests that both countries want to put their past behind.

    Modi described Indonesia as one of the most valued partners in India’s Act East policy.

    A joint statement issued after the extensive talks between the two leaders condemned terrorism and reiterated their resolve for “zero tolerance” for all acts of terror.  What should please India was the the joint statement called upon all countries to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 and other resolutions designating terrorist entities.

    New Delhi has been lobbying hard for declaring Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN. Beijing’s nonchalant attitude and veto on the issue has created quite a furor in India.

    What comes as an indirect reference to Pakistan, New Delhi and Jakarta also called for working towards eliminating terrorist safe havens and disrupting their financing channels. 

    Both leaders also called for resolving the South China Sea dispute through peaceful means and in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law including the UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). Indonesia is a party to the dispute and opposes Chinese stance on the issue.

    They also decided to step up space cooperation. India has in the past successfully launched two Indonesian satellites. 

    Modi said to further boost trade ties, both sides wanted early implementation of India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment and finalisation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.


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