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India eyes stronger ties with Indonesia

JAKARTA: India is looking for stronger ties with Indonesia in economic and other areas of cooperation, with some key agreements likely to be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's current visit to the south Asian nation. 

Singh, who arrived here late last night from
Brunei after attending ASEAN and East Asia Summits from October 9-10, would be joined here by senior cabinet colleagues External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma. 

The delegation also includes a number of top officials including National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon. 

During the trip, some important agreements are likely to be signed and the Indian delegation will leave for home tomorrow. 

Besides being a key ASEAN member, Indonesia is an important bilateral partner of India. The areas of cooperation between the two countries range from economy, culture, energy, security, space and development. 

Ahead of his Brunei and Indonesia visit, Singh had said that India's sees its "ties with Indonesia as an essential part of India's integration with the broader region". 

"I intend to utilise this visit also to re-emphasise our commitment to building a stronger partnership with ASEAN. We will also have the opportunity to exchange views on regional and global issues of common interest," he said, while committing to create an institutional framework to further enhance the content of our cooperation in the years ahead. 

The visit is expected to further deepen India's strategic partnership with Indonesia and Singh's scheduled meeting with Indonesian Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono may be the last one during the latter's tenure as the President of South East Asian country. 

Presidential elections are expected to be held in Indonesia in April 2014 after Yudhoyono completes his second term. 

India and Indonesia inked a strategic partnership agreement in 2005, about a year after both Singh and Yudhoyono assumed leadership in their respective countries. 

The India-Indonesia bilateral trade has grown by nearly five times since this partnership, to about USD 20 billion currently, while it is targeted to reach USD 25 billion by 2015. 

Singh also held bilateral meetings with the Prime Ministers of Australia and 
Japan on the sidelines of EAS and ASEAN summits in Brunei's capital Bandar Seri Begawan yesterday. 

Officials said that relationships with ASEAN and other Asian countries are now moving towards more strategic partnerships as areas of cooperation have expanded from only economic issues to security, defence, intelligence sharing etc. 

Even on trade, the relations would grow multi-fold after the FTA on services and investments is signed with ASEAN later this year and gets implemented by July 2014. 

The issue of maritime security was also discussed by various leaders in Brunei, while other areas where cooperation is expected to increase include counter terrorism measures, non traditional security threats and disaster mitigation and management.

On South China sea dispute, India made its position clear that the freedom of navigation should be there as per international norms and an early resolution should be worked by first making early progress towards adoption of Code of Conduct norms. 

Asked about a different approach taken by China on this issue, officials said India was very clear on its position irrespective of any other country's view. 

They said that there were certainly some differences among countries on the issue of sovereignty, but India was firm on its stance that these issues should be resolved through consultations as per the international norms.