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India and Indonesia’s Shared Vision towards Maritime

On December 19, aiming to improve trade and tourism between the two countries, an Indian delegation led by the Joint Secretary (South) of the Ministry of External Affairs, Vishvas Sapkal, met with an Indonesian Foreign Ministry delegation led by the director of South and Central Asian Affairs, Jatmiko H. Prasetya. This second meeting of the Joint Task Force created to assess the difficulties in creating connectivity between the strategically important Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Aceh Province took place in Port Blair.

Establishment of the Joint Task Force on Andaman and Nicobar Islands-Aceh Connectivity

On May 18, 2018, Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi visited Jakarta and met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. In order to usher in a new era in the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and India, both leaders committed to increasing collaboration in all sectors by forging a New Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Fifteen agreements/MoUs, of which nine were government-to-government (G2G) MoUs, were signed between the two nations during the visit, with a distinctive focus on developing the maritime domain. A joint declaration titled ‘A Shared Vision of India-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific’ was also adopted by both parties. Both leaders stressed the significance of improved connectivity, particularly on maritime links, to facilitate cooperation and inter-ethnic exchanges between the two maritime neighbours and comprehensive strategic partners.

In accordance with the joint declaration made during the visit of PM Modi to Jakarta, India and Indonesia established a Joint Task Force. On September 3, 2019, a preliminary Joint Task Force Leaders meeting was conducted in Jakarta. The delegations from Indonesia and India were led by the Director (South and Central Asia), and Joint Secretary (South) of the respective foreign ministries. The terms of reference for the Joint Task Force meeting and the date of its initial meeting were negotiated by the group’s leaders. In 2019, the JTF had its first meeting in Banda Aceh, which included a trip to Sabang Island. The meeting’s main topics were collaborating for the sustainable development of fisheries and marine resources as well as the construction of port-related infrastructure in and around Sabang.

The Second Meeting of the Joint Task Force

Speaking about ways to enhance trade, tourism, and interpersonal interactions between Aceh and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were representatives from the two nations. Both parties examined the construction of port-related facilities in and around Sabang, Aceh, according to a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs. According to a subsequent press release, the task force “took stock of the progress made and the obstacles faced in strengthening connectivity” between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Aceh since the first meeting of the joint task force in 2019. In light of the economic and infrastructural fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic, India and Indonesia have decided to promote sailing travel, cruise ship excursions, and cooperation among tour operators. To bolster trade and investment, the two will expand options for communication between business chambers and potential investors on both sides. The two countries also decided to work together to improve the ease of operations for the fishing industry and to facilitate knowledge sharing between the fishing communities due to the abundance of marine resources in the area. Methods to strengthen cultural ties and academic collaboration between Aceh and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were also explored.

Thus, by enhancing communication and collaboration, the two parties have agreed to collaborate toward increasing cooperation in the Andaman Sea. The next review meeting for the task force is slated to be held in 2023 in Aceh when the interim developments will be reviewed and new action will be taken depending on the progress and state of the current projects.