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Why Indonesia is Important to India

Mrs. Navrekha Sharma is a retired Indian Foreign Service (IFS) diplomat who also served as India’s Ambassador to Indonesia till recently.
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  • January 20, 2011

    The Indian Government, and the Foreign policy establishment in particular, can do more to leverage the vast collective experience of Indians in Indonesia and channel it towards the larger ends of bilateral cooperation. Until that happens, the profound sense of affinity which Indians have towards Indonesians through shared history, culture and aesthetics, language and civilization, will remain dormant. Indian investors, for example, are welcomed in Indonesia not only because of the employment they generate, but also for intangible reasons such as cultural affinity, their willingness to share technological know how with Indonesians, etc., which the Japanese and Westerners are not so willing to do so. Indian businesses are more frugal, which Indonesians appreciate. Despite the monochromatic globalization which is being pressed upon us from all sides today, Indians and Indonesians can and do indulge in less rapacious and more equitable business practices. So they are welcomed in Indonesia for cultural reasons as much as for their sound business plans. Unfortunately, Indonesian businessmen have yet to take a firm decision to invest in India, in fields such as construction and food processing, paper and cosmetics, i.e. lines in which Indonesia is strong. Their investing in India would be a definitive advance for bilateral relations as it would express reciprocal trust in the Indian market. To some extent of course the problem is financial, for pribumi Indonesians with capital to spare are few in number. However, being weak in spoken English, they are shy and require more handholding from our investment promotion agencies than others.

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