Press Release || India-Indonesia Relations: The Andaman-Ache Perspective

July 29th 2020: Andaman Aceh connectivity holds immense trade and connectivity potential:

Policymakers, diplomats, industry, media and academia came together in a master webinar organized by the Asian Confluence as part of a series on the Bay of Bengal on the Theme “India Indonesia Relations: the Andaman Aceh Perspective”, held in collaboration with the ASEAN-India Center (AIC), Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and the Center for Maritime Studies, Pondicherry University. 

“Connectivity between Andaman Islands and Aceh province of Indonesia can unleash enormous potential for growth in 5Ts: Transport, Trade, Tourism, Transit, Togetherness”. “This development has to be engineered so that it is sustainable, ecologically friendly to the fragile ecosystem of the region and its benefits need to reach the local communities”. This was a common refrain that echoed. The discussions were chaired by Amb. Rajeev Bhatia, IFS Retd., Member, Governing Council, Asian Confluence and Distinguished Fellow Gateway house. He said “Increasing Andaman-Aceh connectivity will be a building block for securing the vision of a Bay of Bengal community”.

Andaman-Aceh perspective has brought to the fore, the discourse that India and Indonesia are very close ‘physical neighbours’ in addition to being cultural and spiritual neighbors” said HE Mr. Pradeep Rawat, Ambassador of India to Indonesia in his inaugural speech.  HE Mr. Sidharto Reza Suryodipuro, Indonesian Ambassador to India, reflected that this was a timely initiative to bring together various viewpoints on this very important area of Indo Indonesia collaboration asWe both seek to enhance bilateral trade relations with a goal of achieving 50 billion USD, also harping on how to establish a greater connectivity in the form of India –Indonesia-Malaysia growth triangle.” 

Welcoming the Government of India’s initiative, Mr. Kuldeep Rai Sharma, Member of Parliament, Andaman-Nicobar Islands, said, “Sustainable development, keeping in mind the security point of view and environment will be the key. Fresh water security is a huge problem that needs to be addressed in this development discourse. Policies about how to develop A&N should be formulated while thinking about the last man, he added.

Dr. Prabir De, Head, ASEAN-India Center (AIC), RIS made a detailed presentation on the topic that formed the backdrop for an enriching panel discussion with  a wide range of experts covering various dimensions and representing Industry, policy makers, academia  and the media. They included Dr. Nazamuddin, SE., MA, Department of Development Economics, Universitas Syiah Kuala Banda Aceh; Mr. Girish Arora, President, Andaman Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Port Blair; Dr. Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Kolkata; Dr. Vijay Sakuja, Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), New Delhi; Mr. Vijay Roy, Chief Editor, Echo of India, Port Blair; and Dr. A Subramanyam Raju, Professor, Pondicherry University, Puducherry.

According to Dr De, “Indonesia-India collaboration for Aceh and the Andaman-Nicobar region is also part of the efforts to promote concrete cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the maritime and connectivity sector.”  The seminar has discussed, among others, the connectivity development cooperation plan between Aceh province and the Andaman-Nicobar Islands.  

Today’s seminar has identified six areas of cooperation, namely, trade and investment, infrastructure development in Sabang, connectivity development, marine and fishery, tourism and exchange of culture, science and technology. Andaman-Aceh connectivity has the potential to strengthen the Sabang port development feasibility. Andaman-Aceh (AA) connectivity can unlock immense business opportunities in a range of sectors: health care, tourism, energy, construction, agro-processing and fisheries.

To unlock such potential, international flights from Veer Savarkar International Airport (Port Blair airport) to popular destinations such as Phuket, Bangkok, Medan, Jakarta, Bali etc. may be allowed to operate. Besides, the direct shipping links – both passenger and cargo – between Andaman and Aceh, and also other islands should also be started. Both the countries may consider signing the India-Indonesia coastal shipping agreement. To encourage trade and commerce, participants has recommended for trade fairs, tourism fairs, B2B collaborations, think-tanks networks, media exchange, etc. Besides, innovative proposals like trade in local currency (Rupee – Rupiah trade), completion of India-Indonesia Bilateral CECA, etc. had also come up.

Collaboration in modernized deep-sea fishing, import of construction materials, agro-food products, tourism, power, health, freedom of navigation and people-to-people contacts at a local level were flagged as major areas of collaboration that need further push.    

Mr. Sabyasachi Dutta, Executive Director said “The Asian Confluence operates in the “third space”  the space of people driven ideas, bottom up out of box thinking, pushing them by organically connecting peers across boundaries and linking ideas to institutions.” Asian Confluence is aligned with India’s “neighborhood first policy” , “Act east and indo pacific policies, and India-Indonesia relations with the Aceh-Andaman perspective is where all three converge”, he added. The webinar had a large audience and viewership on social media platforms. 

Click here to get the Facebook Live link of the entire webinar.

Related Newsarticle on The Economic Times, July 30, 2020: India - Indonesia maritime links to uphold rules-based architecture in Indo-Pacific