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Modi visit: India-Indonesia relations interplay of hard & soft power, says Jakarta Post piece

By Shubham

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on his maiden visit to Indonesia on Tuesday, May 29, the media of the archipelago, also the largest Muslim state in the world, came up with a decent coverage of New Delhi's relations with Jakarta.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

In an opinion piece titled 'India-Indonesia relations: Between soft and hard power' penned by a Vadodara-based independent Indian researcher for The Jakarta Post, it was said that focused engagements with Southeast and East Asian countries have been a highlight of the four-year-old Modi government.

It said the relations between India and Indonesia have seen an interplay of soft and hard power.

"During the entire Cold War period, despite common cultural links India hardly invoked these in its foreign relations with the Southeast Asian region. Soft power started featuring prominently in India's foreign policy only in the post-Cold War period. The second factor was strategic orientation of foreign policy which was also absent during the Cold War. Although this situation has started changing the use of strategic thinking or hard power is still in a developmental stage in Indian diplomacy," The Jakarta Post piece said.

It said Modi's visit to Indonesia - his first as the prime minister - is likely to strengthen strategic cooperation between New Delhi and Jakarta. It also said strategic links with Indonesia help India with a platform to broaden its "maritime outreach", something which lacked focus for a long time.

According to the piece, Indonesia has a maritime significance for India for two reasons. First, it is a maritime neighbour of India and secondly, it covers a huge water area covering the Indian Ocean and South China Sea and forms a part of the new strategic entity - the Indo-Pacific. This is particularly keep in the face of the strategic rivalry that India and other Southeast Asian countries have with regional hegemon China.

"China's strategic assertion has caused regional and extra regional powers to concentrate on and create a formidable deterrent entity of Indo-Pacific, where powers such as the United States, Japan and Australia have increasingly encouraged India's active role," the piece said, though adding: "But India's participation in the proposed security arrangements of the Indo-Pacific would need many details to be worked out."

It said India's strategic partnership with the Southeast Asian countries look promising in the current situation and in the near future.

During his visit to India earlier this month, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan stressed the importance of India-Indonesia strategic partnership to facilitate balance of power in the region and promote counterterrorism and anti-piracy operations. He also said that Indonesia did not focus much on its maritime domain and added that for both India and Indonesia, the maritime domain is an emerging strategic area where they can cooperate to promote interests - individual as well as collective, the article added.

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