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India ready to play role in securing the Straits of Malacca: Pranab Mukherjeenews
19 June 2007
Jakarta: India has expressed its readiness to play a role in protecting the Straits of Malacca even as it enhances defence cooperation with Indonesia. The Indian offer to secure sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean, through which 60 per cent of world's energy is supplied, was made by external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee, after he co-chaired a joint commission meeting along with his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda in Jakarta.

At the first Joint Defence Cooperation Committee meeting, India and Indonesia have also agreed on a plan of action to implement the strategic partnership in a "clear and measurable manner."

Addressing a joint press conference with Wirajuda, Mukherjee said, "There is a growing presence of terrorists and non-state actors requiring attention of littoral states and the international community so that mercantile trade and supply of energy can be ensured," he said.

"We always keep in view sensitivities of the littoral states. Whatever role they expect us to play, we will be glad to do so," Mukherjee added.

Mukherjee is on a four-day visit to Indonesia and Singapore as part of a government to project India's "Look East" policy.

The meeting of the two ministers is significant in that it follows the "New Strategic Partnership" forged by Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and prime minister, Manmohan Singh, during the state visit of the former to India in November 2005.

The two countries expressed satisfaction at the increase in visits of MPs, military officials, trade missions, academicians, and people-to-people exchanges over the past few years.

The commission focused on a wide-ranging subjects including defence and security, transportation, economy and investment possibilities, health, education and training, science and technology, tourism and culture, technical cooperation and legal cooperation, according to an official release here.

Mukherjee termed the plan as a "blue print" for the realisation of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

The Indian delegation expressed appreciation at the extension of Visa on Arrival facilities to Indian nationals by Indonesia.

The two sides also identified new fields of cooperation such as Special Economic Zones (SEZ), development of alternative energy sources and the conclusion of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in Criminal Matters and Extradition Treaty.

Cooperation in health and pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, and mining, biotechnology and women's empowerment have also been identified as new areas of cooperation between Asia's two largest pluralistic democracies.

The Indonesian side welcomed the India's offer to assist in the restoration work at the Prambanan Temple Complex, the largest Hindu temple in Java that was damaged by the Tsunami in 2004.

Both sides also agreed to cooperate closely in the hospitality and tourism sector as well.

Indonesia is India's third largest trade partner in the 10-member ASEAN region with a trade value of US$4.79 billion last year. The two countries have set up a trade target of US$10 billion for 2010.

Mukherjee travels to Singapore on Tuesday where he will launch the Indian Business Forum that is expected to benefit over 2,500 Indian companies operating in that country.

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India ready to play role in securing the Straits of Malacca: Pranab Mukherjee