The Society For Indian Ocean Studies organised a seminar with ICCR on 29/30 May at the impressive Nehru Memorial Library – "The Theme: Indonesia A New Beginning?

Population 210m. Land 5.1 mill sq.km. 17508 Island. EEZ 3.2 mill sq.km

Presidents - Gen Sukarno (1945 – 65) Gen Suharto (1966 – 1998)

Do note the question mark because that is what the seminar was all about !!! Has Indonesia come out of the woods economically and politically and has it got over the trauma of the East Timor separation? What will happen in Irian Jaya and what about Aceh? Has it sold away its oil and mineral wealth? Has the military been corralled and what finally should be India’s role for cooperation with Indonesia in trade, Indian Ocean Politics (especially as the Indian Ocean Rim - IOR Movement has petered out) and what is the future of the Indian Community there?

The seminar was inaugurated by Mr.K C Pant and Mr.Shiv Raj Patil both ex Defence Ministers and attended by Ambassador Ranganatham and Ambassador Ragunath who chaired the final summing up session with finesse. Having just retired as Foreign Secretary he was pragmatic enough to sum up the various views and said the future of Indonesia still needed watching. Indonesia’s initial growth and progress in ASEAN was remarkable but factors like lack of democracy, corruption and the military voice in Parliament and Politics are still visible. Factors that sparked the East Asian financial crisis have eased but not faded away. Indonesia with its thousands of islands and large 3.2 mill Sq km, in EEZ make it important for India to cooperate in the Maritime Field.

Australia’s role was touched upon and speakers from Malaysia, Indonesian Embassy, Dr. R K Pachuri (TERI) MR.B Raman (EX RAW) on Indonesian Armed Forces and other academics presented papers. Drs Chandra and Qassim and VAdm M K Roy steered the seminar and IDC analyses that for the time being India’s relationship with Indonesia will continue with friendliness. While India imports coal and exports textiles and traditional goods totaling some 700 mill USD, the Japanese control the LPG and LNG cartels. So suggestions for cooperation in energy will not be easy, as suggested at the seminar. Indonesia will soon have the largest LNG terminal.

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