India–Indonesia relations

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Indian-Indonesian relations
Map indicating locations of India and Indonesia


Sukarno and Jawaharlal Nehru, with Indira Gandhi, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Guntur. The relationship between India and Indonesia is warm and cordial since the beginning.

Indian-Indonesian relations refers to the bilateral relations of India and Indonesia. India and Indonesia are neighbours. India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Indonesia along the Andaman Sea.

The Indian-Indonesian relationship stretch back for almost two millennia. In 1950, the first President of Indonesia - Sukarno called upon the peoples of Indonesia and India to "intensify the cordial relations" that had existed between the two countries "for more than 1000 years" before they had been "disrupted" by colonial powers.[1]

India has an embassy in Jakarta [2] and Indonesia operates an embassy in Delhi.[3] India regards Indonesia as a key member of ASEAN. Both nations had agreed to establish a strategic partnership.[4] The two countries have significant bilateral trade.[5]

India and Indonesia are among the largest democracies in the world.[6] Both are member states of the G-20, the E7 (countries), the Non-aligned Movement, and the United Nations.

According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, 51% of Indonesians view India's influence positively, with 21% expressing a negative view.[7]


The ties between Indonesia and India date back to the times of the Ramayana,[8] "Yawadvipa" (Java) is mentioned in India's earliest epic, the Ramayana. Sugriva, the chief of Rama's army dispatched his men to Yawadvipa, the island of Java, in search of Sita.[9] Indians had visited Indonesia since ancient times, and ancient Indonesian (Austronesian people) has embarked in maritime trade in Southeast Asian seas and Indian Ocean. The Ancient Indians spread Hinduism and many other aspects of Indian culture including the Sanskrit and Brahmi Script.[citation needed] The trace of Indian influences is most evident in great numbers of Sanskrit loanwords in Indonesian languages.

The name Indonesia derives from the Latin Indus, meaning "India", and the Greek nesos, meaning "island". (due to the similarity of the culture in both regions).[10] The name dates to the 18th century, far predating the formation of independent Indonesia. During the Srivijaya era, many Indonesians studied at Nalanda University in India.[11]

Expansion of Hinduism to Southeast Asia, the ancient link between India and Indonesia.

Indonesia entered its historical period after the adoption of Pallawa script and Sanskrit language from India as evidence in some of earliest inscriptions dated from Indonesia's oldest kingdoms such as the Yupa of Kutai, Tugu of Tarumanagara and historical records of Kalingga. Indianised Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, such as Srivijaya, Medang, Sunda and Majapahit were the predominant governments in Indonesia, and lasted from 200[12] to the 16th century, with the last remaining being in Bali.

The Indian Epics — the Ramayana and the Mahabharata — play an important role in Indonesian culture and history, and are popular amongst Indonesians to this day. In the open theatres of the Prambanan in Java, Javanese Muslims perform the Ramayana dance during full moon nights. An example of deep Hindu-Buddhist influence in Indonesian history is 9th century Borobudur and Prambanan temples. Even after the adoption of Islam, the link between two countries remained strong; not only because India has a significant population of Muslims herself. Indonesian Islamic architecture, especially in Sumatra, has been deeply influenced by Indian Mughal architecture, evident in the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Aceh and Medan's Great Mosque.[citation needed]

Cultural admiration is not one-sided however, Indians also relate closely to Indonesian culture, especially Hindu Balinese culture. During his visit to Java and Bali in 1927, Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian poet, was so enamored to Bali and said "Wherever I go on the island, I see God". Then 23 years later in 1950, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru hailed Bali as the "Morning of the World".[13]

In 1945—1949, during Indonesian National Revolution and the formation of the republic, India and Egypt were among the earliest nations that supported and recognised Indonesian independence and fostered diplomatic relations with Republic of Indonesia. In addition, prior to Indonesia's independence Muhammad Ali Jinnah - the founder of Pakistan - who at that time was President of the All-India Muslim League, encouraged Indian Muslim soldiers serving in British Indian army to join hands with Indonesians against their fight against the Dutch Empire colonisation of Indonesia. As a result, 600-Muslim soldiers of the British Indian Army deserted the colonial forces putting their lot at stake, and allied with Indonesians.[14] India and Indonesia officially opened the diplomatic relations since 3 March 1951.[15] In 1955, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Indonesian President Sukarno were among the five founders of the Non-aligned Movement.

Throughout their shared history, most of relations between India and Indonesia were harmonious and peaceful, except during 1965 war with India. At that time, Indonesia offered to provide Pakistan with military help, and 'to seize Andaman and Nicobar Islands' of India so as to distract it from the Kashmir front, eventually mobilising submarines to help Pakistan. A maritime boundary agreement between the two countries was issued in New Delhi on 14 January 1977.[16]

President of Indonesia Sukarno was the first chief guest at the annual Republic Day parade of India in 1950. In the year 2011, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the chief guest for the same event.[6]

Economic relations[edit]

On 25 January 2011, after talks by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, India and Indonesia had signed business deals worth billions of dollars and set an ambitious target of doubling trade over the next five years.[21]

India also has further economic ties with Indonesia through its free trade agreement with ASEAN, of which Indonesia is a member.[22]

The two countries target to achieve a bilateral trade of $25 Billion by 2015, with cumulative Indian investments of $20 billion in Indonesia.[5]


The cultural ties still continue, with popular Indonesian Dangdut music displaying the influence of Hindustani musics very popular within the people of Indonesia especially middle-class to lower-class people that enjoy the tabla-beat music. Bollywood films and music are also popular in Indonesia.[23] To promote Indian culture in Indonesia, the Jawaharlal Nehru Indian Cultural Centre was established in Jakarta in 1989, featuring a library and providing lessons on Indian culture, as well as promoting art such as Yoga, Indian music and dance [24]


  1. ^ Foreign Policy of India: Text of Documents 1947-59 (p.54)
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Getting closer to Indonesia
  5. ^ a b "Indian pushes for early economic accord with Indonesia". IANS. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Ram Bahukhandi (27 January 2011). "Letter: India and Indonesia – Natural allies". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  7. ^ 2013 World Service Poll BBC
  8. ^ Ramayana to Bollywood, Indonesia Loves India
  9. ^ History of Ancient India Kapur, Kamlesh
  10. ^ Tomascik, T.; Mah, J.A.; Nontji, A.; Moosa, M.K. (1996). The Ecology of the Indonesian Seas - Part One. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions Ltd. ISBN 962-593-078-7. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "History". Bali India Foundation. 
  14. ^ Pakistan aims for better relations with Indonesia beyond politics The Jakarta Post, 24 June 2008
  15. ^ RI-India Perluas Kerjasama Ekonomi, Energi dan Hukum Antara News
  16. ^ "India-Indonesia Maritime Boundary Agreement" (PDF). Foreign Affairs Record. XXIII (1): 2. January 1977. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  17. ^ "Borobudur : A Wonder of Indonesia History". Indonesia Travel. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  18. ^ K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India, pp 424–426
  19. ^
  20. ^ The 'Invention Of Tradition' In Indian Food
  21. ^ "India and Indonesia aim to double trade". BBC News. 25 January 2011. 
  22. ^ "India and Asean aim to boost trade". BBC News. 3 March 2011. 
  23. ^ Ashwini Devare (16 November 2011). "Neighbourly warmth infuses Indonesia-India relations". IBN Live. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  24. ^ Jakarta's Indian Cultural Centre on the Move

External links[edit]