By Ashok Dixit
New Delhi, Nov.1 (ANI): Vice President M. Hamid Ansari left on Sunday morning on a five-day two-nation official visit to Indonesia and Brunei.
Indonesia will be the first stopover for the vice president, who is going there at the invitation of his Indonesian counterpart Jusuf Kalla.
Vice President Ansari will be in Indonesia from November 1 to November 4, and his visit to that country is essentially to carry forward the ongoing bilateral engagement with strategic partner Indonesia at the highest level.
This strategic partnership was formally established during the state visit of President Yudhoyono to India in 2005, and bilateral engagement between the two nations since then has been on the upswing.
The last India-Indonesia engagement was with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia in Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw on November 13, 2014 on the sidelines of the 25th ASEAN Summit. At that meeting, it was agreed to take the roadmap for future engagement forward.
During his meetings with the Indonesian leadership, Vice President Ansari will be reaffirming India’s commitment to strengthen and consolidate its strategic and economic relationship with Indonesia, which has emerged as the second largest trading partner of New Delhi in the ASEAN region.
Bilateral trade between the two countries has witnessed a five-fold increase from USD 4.3 billion in 2005-06 to about USD 20 billion in 2014-15.
India is also the largest buyer of crude palm oil and coal from Indonesia. It also imports minerals, rubber, pulp and paper, and hydrocarbons.
New Delhi exports refined petroleum products, maze, commercial vehicles, telecommunication equipment, animal feed, cotton, steel products, plastics and pharmaceuticals in bulk formulations to Indonesia.
Indian companies have made investments in textiles and steel, automobile sector, mining machinery, banking, IT and consumer goods sectors. Indian investors have also contributed to the development of Indonesia to a large degree.
About 250,000 jobs have been created in Indonesia as a result of these investments. India will seek to establish a balanced economic partnership with Indonesia, where its investments are currently pegged at around USD 15 billion.
From the cultural perspective, India and Indonesia share common values. The epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata form the basis of a large number of folk tales and also Wayang Puppet shows.
Recently India had organized Sahabat India, which is the Festival of India in Indonesia in 2015, this year. And during this festival, folk dances, dance drama shows, musical shows, exhibitions, seminars, small promotions and screening of Bollywood cinema were held in several prestigious locations all over Indonesia, in fact in 18 different cities.
India has active cultural centres in Jakarta and Bali.
From time to time, the Indian Government has also offered training under ITEC and TCS of Colombo Plan and Indonesia is a major recipient of the scholarships.
In 2015-16, 100 ITEC and Colombo Plan slots have been allocated Indonesia. Over 1300 Indonesian officials have attended training programmes in India under these schemes over the past decade.
The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) also offers 20 to 22 scholarships every year to Indonesian students for pursuing higher studies at undergraduate, postgraduate, doctoral and post doctoral levels, under its general cultural scholarship scheme; and this has been happening since 1994-95. So far, over 200 Indonesian students have availed the ICCR scholarship.
The visit of Vice President Ansari to Indonesia as acquired a new twist with the recent custodial detention of Indian-origin criminal Chhota Rajan. Though Rajan is on record as saying that he has not swung a sweet deal with the Indian authorities, and has in fact surrendered before the Indonesian authorities and sought to be sent back to India at the earliest, there is still speculation in the air about the suddenness of his capture in Indonesia.
New Delhi has confirmed that during the Vice President’s visit to Indonesia, there will be a bilateral discussion on an exchange of letters for formalizing an extradition treaty between the two countries, but has added that it does not need a formal extradition treaty to have a wanted criminal like Chhota Rajan sent back home to face trial.
Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs Anil Wadhwa recently said that the issue of Chhota Rajan may not be taken up specifically unless it is required during the vice president’s visit, but added that it is on track and relevant ministries were in touch with each other. (ANI)