India, Indonesia to cooperate on sea lanes security, release Vision Document (Intro Roundup)

New Delhi, Dec 12 (IANS) In what can be seen as a message to China on its claims over the South China Sea, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said India and Indonesia have agreed to ensure safety and security of the sea lanes, while releasing a Vision Documents 2025 on bilateral ties.

The two sides also agreed to prioritise defence and security ties.

“My extensive conversation with President Widodo today (Monday) focused on the full range of our cooperation,” Modi said in a joint press conference with visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo following delegation-level bilateral talks here.

“We agreed to prioritise defence and security cooperation,” he said.

“As two important maritime nations that are also neighbours, we agreed to cooperate to ensure the safety and security of the sea lanes, in disaster response and environmental protection.”

Modi said a joint statement on maritime cooperation signed after Monday’s talks outlined “the agenda of our engagement in this field”.

Besides the joint statement on maritime cooperation, the two sides also signed two memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on cooperation in the areas of youth and sports, and standardisation.

The agreement on maritime cooperation assumes significance as several Southeast Asian nations have problems with China over the South China Sea.

In July, an international arbitration tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that China violated the Philippines’ rights in the South China Sea, one of the busiest commercial shipping routes in the world.

The court accused China of interfering with the Philippines’ fishing and petroleum exploration, building artificial islands in the waters and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.

China reacted angrily, calling the verdict null and void with no binding force and that “China neither accepts it nor recognises it”. But Beijing has since decided to go for bilateral talks with Manila.

Indonesia, the largest of the Southeast Asian nations, however, does not have any such issue with China.

In Monday’s address to the media, Modi said that Indonesia was one of India’s most valued partners in its ‘Act East Policy’.

“It is the largest economy in Southeast Asia. And, India is one of the fastest growing large economies in the world,” he said.

He also welcomed Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia’s decision to commence direct flights between Jakarta and Mumbai as it would help boost people-to-people contacts.

On his part, Widodo said that Indonesia wanted to increase bilateral trade ties and also diversify exports to India.

A joint statement issued after the talks said India and Indonesia discussed the threat posed by global terrorism and other transnational crimes and emphasised “zero tolerance” for terror acts.

Modi and Widodo condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations in the strongest possible terms and commended the working of a Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism, a joint statement issued here said.

In a major boost to New Delhi’s ‘Act East Policy’, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a separate statement that India and Indonesia released a ‘Vision Document 2025’ on bilateral ties while deciding to hold annual summit-level meetings.

“Leaders of both countries had earlier mandated the setting up of an Eminent Persons Group to draw up a Vision Document 2025 to serve as a blueprint for our bilateral relations,” it stated.

“After three sittings during 2016, the report is now ready and was released on the occasion of the visit (of Widodo) by (Indonesian) Foreign Minister Retino Marsudi and Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar.”

Earlier in the day, Widodo, who assumed the presidency of Indonesia in October 2014, was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

In the afternoon, Vice-President Hamid Ansari called on him. This was followed by a banquet in the evening in honour of the visiting dignitary by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Widodo is accompanied by his wife Iriana Joko Widodo, seven cabinet ministers and a 22-member business delegation from Indonesia.

This is the first presidential visit from Indonesia to India in nearly six years since the visit of then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in January 2011.

–IANS

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