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India-Indonesia Strategic Partnership

India-Indonesia Strategic Partnership

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Published by Dr Pankaj Jha
The research paper discusses India Indonesia relations in the context of Asian security and stability. It also discusses relations in the Indian Ocean Zone.
The research paper discusses India Indonesia relations in the context of Asian security and stability. It also discusses relations in the Indian Ocean Zone.

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Published by: Dr Pankaj Jha on Aug 30, 2009
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India-Indonesia Partnership: Perspectives on Security and Stability
Dr. Pankaj Jha Associate Fellow, IDSA pankajidsa@gmail.com
The democracy in Indonesia after the 1999 has few strategic imperatives .First of all it got the privileged attention of the democracies of the world from US to Japan. Also the democracyhas helped Indonesia to resolve few of its impending problems like Aceh and East Timor. Thedemocratic form of government has been very successful in wiping out the terrorism fromIndonesia to a large extent. The international relations of Indonesia has improved be it the case of China or even Japan or for that matter India, which has endowed Indonesia with the bargaining power against the major powers in both regional and global context. Indonesia can decide aboutits foreign and strategic policy without aligning itself to any axis of China–Russia or US-Japan- Australia. In such a milieu it has become imperative for India to develop its relations withIndonesia so as to have a better partner in case of hardening of any of the axis as well as to chart acourse of non-alignment in case of choice.
Indonesia has seen a past of extreme nationalism to that of non alignment andthereafter becoming more aligned to US strategic interests in the region. The two phasesof Sukarno and Suharto rule has shown the extremities of Indonesia policy in the pre-9/11 period. The reign of Suharto also saw the freeze in the relations between India andIndonesia due to the two countries becoming more aligned to the better choices for theirsecurity objectives. In the post Suharto period the strengthening of democraticinstitutions and the role of the coalition in governance has projected a different image ofIndonesia. Though the economic crisis of 1997/98 did pose problems for Indonesia bothin terms, of economic management and also controlling the ethnic riots as has happenedduring 1998.The demise of authoritarian regime has also led to the fugitive radical Islamproponents to come back to Indonesia and strengthen the role of hard-line in Indonesiapolitics. But this could not be projected due to the problem of the buffer organisationslike Mohammediyah and Nahda ut ulema.The paper would decipher the Indian policy towards Indonesia in such asituation where democracy is at a nascent stage and Indonesia has been wooed by majorpowers like China, US and Japan. In the 2006-07, Indonesia has seen the visits of most ofthe leaders of countries like UK, US, Japan, China. This shows Indonesia is slowlygaining prominence not only in terms of its geo strategic location but also in terms offree trade agreement as well as investments. The resultant effect has been the slowrecovery of Indonesia from the tentacles of economic depression. In such a context thepaper would address issues of concern for India in order to engage Indonesia as astrategic ally which should be important for India in the long run. Secondly, Indonesiarole in the future balance of influence scenario. Thirdly, the role stable Indonesia insustaining India’s interests in Southeast Asia. As it is already known that Indonesia isone of the few democracies in Southeast Asian region which can be projected as a realdemocracy. Fourthly, the strengthening of democracy might or might not augur well for
the rise of radical Islam in Indonesia. Fifthly, in case India joins the US axis, how far itsinterest would be served with regard to its relationship with Indonesia.The paper has been divided into five parts which includes the brief backgroundof India –Indonesian relations prior to democracy and thereafter. Secondly Indonesianstability and security is how much related to India and thirdly, in the strategic peripheryof India would a strong Indonesia act to India’s advantage. Fourthly, a more secure andstable Indonesia would add to the security of sea lanes of communication. Lastly,Indonesian Islamic extremism has few implications for Indian security.
Historical Backdrop
During the Indonesian struggle for independence in the post Second World Warscenario, the weakness and vulnerability of the Indonesian state was exposed which wasarising from its fragmented social and physical conditions. In addition, an awareness ofthe attraction of Indonesia’s bountiful natural resources and the importance of itsstrategic location between the Indian and Pacific Oceans reinforced an apprehension ofexternal powers. By contrast, that common international outlook encompassed also apropriety attitude towards the regional environment. Pride in revolutionaryachievement, a consciousness of vast territorial scale ,an immense population, extensivenatural resources, as well as a strategic location, produced the conviction that Indonesiawas entitled to play a leading role in the management of regional order within southeastAsia
.Even during the conciliation process with Dutch in the aftermath of the war Britishwere apprehensive of the evolving scenario and were contemplating the sending ofBritish Indian troops for controlling the situation in Indonesia. This was the first possibleinteraction in terms of defence between Indonesia and India. Though in terms of culturaland religious ties the links were historical and the form of Islam that is prevalent inIndonesia is being influenced by India’s tolerant ethos.With regard to political interactions, on the issue of anti-imperialism, anti –apartheid and non-aligned movement saw the convergence of opinion between the twonations. India also took initiative to convene pan-Asian conferences such as the 1947Asian Relations Conference and the 1949 Conference on Indonesia to combatcolonialism. The latter was specifically convened in the wake of the second Dutch ‘PoliceAction’ in Indonesia and sought effective UN intervention to get the Dutch out of thatcountry. In Indian opinion not only was India’s freedom of material significance to thesenew states but equally their freedom was important to India if it wanted to developindependently. Sukarno’s Indonesia therefore appealed to the Indian elites primarilybecause it was perceived as fiercely nationalistic and non-aligned.
Even during theoutbreak of the Korean War, the Indonesian government refused to adopt a position ofeither approval or disapproval towards the belligerents and correspondingly resistedpressures from the United States to become a party to its global policy of containment.This non-aligned position had been encouraged by India’s Prime Minister, JawaharlalNehru, who had strongly espoused Indonesia’s national cause. Mohammed Hatta,Indonesian Prime minister was extremely sensitive to the domestic political atmospherewhich gave rise to such a position. Within the United Nations, Indonesia’s delegationidentified itself with measures for a peaceful settlement in Korea and with support foranti-colonial movements’
.Right since the Bandung conference in 1955; the ideas mootedby the leaders of the two countries had found a stable ground in developing countries.
India-Indonesia relations took off to an impressive start with India’s unflinchingsupport for the new Indonesian republic. In the early 1950s both countries showed aremarkable level of cooperation in foreign affairs as they spoke with one voice of non-alignment, Panchsheel (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence),colonialism etc andmore specifically on Indochina, SEATO and the Suez Crisis. But by the late 1950s, due totheir differing images of China and due to a personality clash between Nehru andSukarno there developed an unbridgeable chasm between the two countries. The 1961Belgrade conference proved a forerunner to the tensions that marked their relations.During the conference Sukarno and Nehru differed over the primary objective of thenon-aligned gathering. The former insisted on the anti-colonial line while the latter feltthat world peace was the more pressing issue facing the countries. Even during theFourth Asian games due to non participation of Israel and Taiwan, an Indian vicepresident of the Asian games Federation, sought to have the status of the gamesnullified. This initiative was construed as a personal insult to Sukarno and a nationalinsult to Indonesia. As a consequence Indian embassy was attacked by a rented mob andits participants as well as national flag were booed.These differences became more acute, concurrently with the Sino-Indian conflictand the progressive intensification of the Sino- Soviet dispute, as Indonesia and Indiathemselves parties to competing structures of alignment. The same vehemence markedthe 1964 Cairo conference where India and Indonesia clashed over the principle ofpeaceful coexistence. President Sukarno championed the Chinese view of that principlewhich annoyed India and led the latter to conduct a spirited campaigned in defence ofits own version of peaceful coexistence. At the more intermediate level India –Indonesiarelations took a slump owing to India’s instance on Malaysia while Indonesia wasnurturing a
. Even subsequently during the 1965 Afro-Asian conference Indiafought hard to get the approval from adequate members for Malaysia’s admission at theconference. This infuriated President Sukarno and possibility with his approval the Jakarta mob violently attacked the Indian embassy in retaliation. Relations deterioratedfurther when Indonesia took Pakistan’s side during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war andlabelled India as the aggressor. This period saw the strengthening of the Beijing – Jakarta-Rawalpindi axis operating against India.The turn around in relationship happened after Suharto came to power in1966.China became suspect in the eyes of the Indonesian elite owing to its allegedcomplicity in the September 30 coup
, as it has earlier become in the eyes of India. Thisprovided the foundation for rebuilding the relationship. This led to the visit ofIndonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik in 1966 with a view to restore friendly ties.India reciprocated with offer of rupees 100 million worth of credit facilities to Jakarta.Indian foreign minister also visited Indonesia in January 1967 which furtherstrengthened the bond between the two countries.In the 1969 after the Sino-Soviet clash on the Ussuri River, Soviet Unionproposed the Asian Collective Security framework, Mrs Gandhi when visited Indonesiaand Japan in 1969 found very little support for the Brezhnev plan and was asked toclarify India’s stance .Mrs. Gandhi clarified that if the plan projected a military allianceor pact then India would disagree but if it is for economic cooperation then India wouldconsider it differently. Indonesia was also annoyed by the absence of India from the Thaisponsored Vietnam peace conference in 1966 and also stayed away from the 1970 JakartaConference on Cambodia. In a way these attempts to restore order in the region but

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