Indonesian President Joko Widodo will be attending the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26 along with nine other heads of state from the ASEAN region.
WION spoke with Indonesia’s ambassador to India, Sidharto Suryodipuro, who said he would not be surprised if the bonds between India and Indonesia go as far back as before the second century AD -- the two countries share the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Apart from culture and history, Suryodipuro spoke about tourism, how the two countries are talking about martime security, and pushing up trade and investment in each others economies.
He also reminded us that Indonesia's first president Sukarno had been a guest at India's first Republic Day parade.
Q: Both India and Indonesia have strong cultural and economic ties which go back to ancient times. How have the ties evolved in last three years?
A: I would not be surprised to find that the ties may even go back before 2nd century AD because we share Mahabharata and Ramayana. We have both culture and history to build upon. In the last three years, we have worked on all sectors. We welcome Indian tourists; the political relationship has been very strong. Now we are talking about maritime security. Economically, we are working to increase trade and investments. Both in Delhi and Jakarta, we have been very upbeat about the prospect of this relationship.
How do you see the presence of heads of states from 10 ASEAN countries present during the Republic Day parade?
It would be unprecedented and first for India. For Indonesia, it would be first for our President. I also recall that the first Republic Day parade was attended by President Sukarno in Delhi. We go back a long way. So, this time when the President of Indonesia comes, it would be the third time.
How do you see India’s commitment towards ASEAN economies and its 'Look East' policy?
We want to work with India to support the 'Act East' policy so that it can substantiate itself. We want physical and other forms of connectivity to increase. We don’t say that we have too much of India in South East Asia, it’s just that we don’t have enough of India.
What are those areas where Indian and Indonesian interests can converge?
Currently I’m focusing on air and maritime connectivity. We are building another layer of relationships while we talk at the political level. We are also talking about security but it is the people-to-people relationship that creates a balance in a relationship. It will enrich the relationship at the socio-cultural and educational level. Maritime connectivity existed in past. The Eastern side of India was directly connected with Java and Sumatra. We were connected to Kalinga but all that has gone and it needs to be rebuilt.
Apart from the economy, India’s concern is also terrorism. India is a victim of terrorism which flows from across the border. What is Indonesia’s position on it?
It is a problem which we are all facing. Terrorism and radicalism is a problem we all share. We are in talks with our counterparts for preparing for events and countering terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism. India and Indonesia can draw from the depth of tradition to fight extremism and terrorism. We have a tradition to fall back upon to fight against such trends.
So, we have a civilizational connect?
Absolutely. These are societies which have been tolerant and multicultural and accepted various teachings.
Lot of artists are coming in from various ASEAN countries. Tell us about those coming from your country?
There will be a Ramayana troupe coming from the island of Bali. The story remains the same but there will be modifications and some figures which don’t exist in original Ramayana in India. Our troupe will be on the classical side. The Balinese Ramayana and dresses are very elaborate. That is for the Indian audience to tell us. I have seen Indian Ramayana in Delhi. It is very dynamic and performed within 2.5 hours.
How is the Balinese Ramayana different?
Very different in presentation. The Indian side is very fast and energetic but the Balinese side is focused on movement. Slow movements require patience and stamina.
What steps should be taken by both countries to forge more intimate bonds?
Air connectivity is a must. There are 28 flights from Indonesia to India but Indian carriers do not fly to Indonesia. Another area would be movies -- Indian movies are wildly popular in Indonesia. My wife just watched Jodha Akbar. My mother-in-law also watches Indian movies and recently watched Dangal and PK. Making of movies in both Indonesia and India would be an avenue to enhance awareness about what is India and Indonesia.