Indonesia keen to forge closer ties with India: President Joko Widodo
Bogor: India and Indonesia must cooperate closely in areas like defence, security and counter-terrorism, President Joko Widodo has said ahead of his state visit as the key Southeast Asian nation sought to enhance bilateral strategic partnership and trade ties.
Widodo said Indonesia is also willing to consider a bilateral trade pact with India.
"I am very much looking forward to have discussions Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi," Widodo, 55, told PTI ahead of his two-day visit to India beginning tomorrow, the first by an Indonesian President after former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's trip in 2011.
Widodo said he sees closer cooperation between Indonesia and India in defence, security and anti-terrorism fields.
"This is something that we are currently discussing...Both our countries have large maritime regions, so cooperation in this sphere is welcome," said Widodo, the President of the country that has the world's largest Muslim population.
It is also appropriate that Indonesia and India work together to fight terrorism, he asserted, adding that, "no country is immune from a terrorist attack".
Indonesia will always cooperate with all countries to fight terrorism through the exchange of information as well as intelligence exchanges and cooperation, he said.
"I hope to increase ties in all sectors, especially economic. We have cultural and religious ties going back centuries. Ramayana and Mahabharata are very famous in Indonesia," Widodo said.
He said the discussions with Modi will cover economic, trade and investment collaboration.
Indonesia is also willing to consider a bilateral trade pact with India, the president said.
"This is something that we are willing to consider. The important thing is that such trade deals must benefit both parties," he said.
Indonesia has emerged to become the second largest trading partner of India in the ASEAN region. Bilateral trade has increased from USD 6.9 billion in 2007-08 to USD 19.03 billion in 2014-15. In 2015-16 the bilateral trade fell to USD.9 billion due to global economic situation, fall in commodity prices and less overall imports by Indonesia.
"Strong leadership is important at this time," said Widodo on Prime Minister Modi's tough decisions for accelerating the Indian economy and development.
Widodo said he has had held several discussions with Modi on Indian companies' investment in Indonesia. He stressed that he would like to see Indian investment in the pharmaceutical sector as a priority and also in the infrastructure.
The President listed investment opportunities in his country, saying, "We have huge infrastructure needs, including toll roads, power plants, ports and airports. This is especially the case for the areas outside Java."
"We feel that investments in this (infrastructure) sector will prove just as lucrative," he said.
Responding to a question on Indian companies' participation in the Indonesia's coal mining sector, Widodo said Indonesia-India have a Joint Working Group on Coal to discuss the cooperation regarding coal.