Modi and Widodo discussed to bolster maritime defense co-operation


Sayan Chatterjee

NEW DELHI: Indonesia and India have assured each other to heighten defense and maritime co-operation, with plans to develop a strategic Indonesian naval port in the Indian Ocean near the city of Sabang.

The port, located on the tip of Sumatra island and at the mouth of the Malacca Strait , is 40 meters (131 feet) deep and could be developed to accommodate both commercial vessels and submarines. Sabang is approximately 175 kilometers southeast of the southernmost island in India’s Andaman and Nicobar Island chain.

India as a nation always kept an interest for Sabang, and, is not a new strategic thought, with the two nations discussing development of the port during Modi’s first year in office. The port would grant the Indian Navy a well-positioned base for supporting operations in the eastern Indian Ocean and at the Malacca Strait.

The agreement was reached when Indonesian President Joko Widodo met India PM Narendra Modi during an official meeting in Indonesia yesterday. The leaders agreed to strengthen existing naval cooperation including the bilateral coordinated Patrols initiated back in 2002 between the Navies of the two countries and commencement of regular bilateral naval exercises, as well. They also agreed to enhance information sharing related to maritime security pertaining to the Indo-Pacific region.

India has a coastline of 7,500 kilometers, more than 1,380 islands and more than two million square kilometers of EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), and Indonesia, the largest archipelago-nation in the world, has a coastline of 108,000 kilometers, 17,504 islands and features and 6,400,000 square kilometers of Exclusive Economic Zone.

As a part of their discussion, the leaders also shared co-operative thoughts on how to encourage greater flow of goods, services, investment and technology between the nations. Also, ensured development of maritime infrastructure and promoting maritime industries, especially in fisheries and shipbuilding.

Steps to enhance connectivity between Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India with the provinces of Sumatra island of Indonesia also been emphasized, so to leverage economical growth basis trade promotions and tourism industry.

Improved geodetic data-sharing, methods and infrastructure and further developed early warning systems in the region for forecasting and communicating disaster-related risks and hazards, have also been talked about.