Modi in Indonesia: Much before India’s ‘Act East Policy’, this Odisha leader embraced Jakarta
Much before India articulated its 'Look East' and 'Act East' policies that aimed at embracing countries of Southeast and East Asia, a prominent political figure from India had set up close ties with Indonesia. It was the legendary leader from Odisha, Biju Patnaik (1916-97) who had continued with the civilizational and cultural links that his state had shared with the Southeast Asian archipelago in the past, to have an enduring relation with the Sukarno family.
Patnaik, is also credited with naming the daughter of Sukarno - Indonesia's first president - as Megawati who was born on a rainy day (hence the daughter of clouds). Megawati also went on to become Indonesia's president in 2001 and ruled for three years.
Patnaik, who was Odisha's third chief minister and father of the current incumbent Naveen, reached out to Indonesia during its years of colonisation under the Dutch. In July 1947, he flew to Jakarta to bring leaders of Indonesia's independence movement to India at the order of Jawaharlal Nehru. His role in rescuing Indonesia's first prime minister Sutan Sjahrir from the house arrest imposed by the Dutch is still remembered as a daring act. Indonesia did not forget Patnaik's contribution and conferred him with its highest honour - Bintang Jasa Utama - in Jakarta in 1995, two years before he died.