India, Indonesia working together like never before, says envoy Ina Krisnamurthi
On the G20 invite to Ukraine and Russia, Indonesian ambassador Ina Krisnamurthi told HT in an interview: “I think what we want is not attendance but for everyone to sit together and think about what will happen to the world, to the management of the world and all the issues”
NEW DELHI: Jakarta and New Delhi are working closely at the highest levels like “never before” to manoeuvre through an increasingly fluid and dynamic global scenario in the aftermath of the Ukraine war, Indonesian ambassadorIna Krisnamurthi said in the context of India taking over the G20 presidency from Indonesia, the current president of G20, in December. In an interview, she also said Indonesia has significantly stepped up naval cooperation with India, including joint exercises and port visits by warships, as part of Jakarta’s focus on maritime security across the Indian Ocean. Edited excerpts:
How hopeful is Indonesia of a breakthrough on the three pillars – global health architecture, sustainable energy transition and digital transformation – for its G20 presidency?
The global dynamics have changed the vision or the objective of achieving the three priorities but to change the priorities into something else would be illogical because these questions remain. Although there are dynamics, the global supply chain disruption even further enhanced concerns about the three [pillars]. The result of it may not be overnight but it needs to be echoed by all presidencies until 2025. Luckily, when we had a special session of G20 presidencies at the Raisina Dialogue, it seems the concerns of developing countries will continue on until 2025. The hope is for the continuation of the discussion and dialogue, and hopefully it will be strengthened by policies because the concerns are apparent although the dynamics are different. I think the hope is for change and not to have a one-goal answer during our presidency...So the...point that I want to make is that it is the first time continuity happens in the G20, at least for five years until 2025.
With Indonesia the G20 president this year and India taking over next year, there is a lot of hope among developing nations that both countries will take up issues like unsustainable levels of debt and the more developed countries not doing enough to fund climate transition. Are you hopeful these are areas where you’re going to have concrete outcomes?
Firstly, you see COP26 was organised by a developed country and COP27 is being held in Egypt, which is an emerging country. I think not only G20 – yes, it is the prime avenue for economic development discussions – but we also need other multilateral frameworks to discuss about things such as climate change. At COP27, luckily Egypt is on board. I think the voices of emerging economies are now significant in the policy-making process in the global economy. But I think the voice of emerging economies is still the same. We need to also find out how to reform the UN and the framework of financial institutions...We cannot do it only by the G20, we have to do it at other multilateral frameworks.
You mentioned the dynamics have changed since the Ukraine war began in February. Indonesia has invited the Russian and Ukrainian presidents to the G20 Summit. How hopeful are you of seeing both presidents in Bali?
I think what we want is not attendance but for everyone to sit together and think about what will happen to the world, to the management of the world and all the issues. To see the leaders sit down together now, it’s also a challenge. So if they come and sit together with other leaders, that’s a plus. That’s hope, just to give a hope that everyone will sit at the same table, thinking about the future of the earth. Secondly, I think the process itself to invite both is a hope that Indonesia or emerging economies remain neutral in managing a prime framework such as G20, that we set aside the one issue in one certain area or certain region, and think about the future of the earth. Neutrality in the emerging economies is very important because if not, then the prime framework will be [taken over] by one issue and one issue only. Although the problems of the world are many – climate change, food security, energy security, water security and financial security.
People tend to forget about problems because they are focusing on only one issue, which is the war and the tension in the region. So I think to see them together in one room with others is a sign of hope for the war [and] for the world to see Indonesia as a leader, to make everyone see things together.
Most of the preparatory meetings for the G20 Summit haven’t resulted in joint communiqués or statements, reflecting the differences over Russia. Leaders of some G20 states have said they don’t want to sit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Does that raise concerns that there may not be a consensus outcome?
Consensus outcome is one thing, but first, continuity of discussions on certain issues is more important than the consensus...If you remember the beginning of the [Ukraine] war, the word boycott was used by some, [but] it didn’t happen. That’s a positive way of looking at what happened with our presidency. I think consensus in joint communiqués is not as important as implementation of the policy itself.
How closely are India and Indonesia working on these issues, given that India takes over in 2023?
I have said that never before at the highest levels, we have had such a very close relationship on a daily basis because the global dynamics are very fluid. That is why coordination between the top management of countries such as ours is very important to manoeuvre the dynamics. So coordination and collaboration is very close, but more importantly because we are in the troika with Brazil.
What are your priority areas in India-Indonesia relations for 2023?
For the first time in the history of our bilateral relations, we have a very senior officer – a commodore from the navy – as the defence attaché. It is very clear that it is being further strengthened to the level that maybe in one or two years, we will have a full-fledged defence attaché here with [officers from] the air force and army. Now we are strengthening the cooperation with the navy first. I think this year for the first time we will have a second joint exercise. Usually, it’s only once a year, but for this year we will have two. Since March, we have already had five or six [port visits], and also...the [Indian] NSA visited Indonesia and hopefully, our coordinating minister will visit soon.
Security cooperation has been very strong this year...And another thing on the economy – we are number two now in Asean among the strongest investors and trade partners of India. First is Singapore and third is Vietnam. But we need to do more, not only palm oil and coal. I hope I could do more, but it’s challenging because when you see the global dynamics, especially the global disruption, countries tend to look inward instead of outward. The policies are based on lessons that we have learned from Covid-19, sometimes it’s driven by panic, by cautiousness and by trial and error.
So I think on the economic front, I have heard of many potential areas were discussed this week between KADIN [the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry] and CII, including digitalisation and also investment from our side to India.
Is there a reason why you focused on security? Are there specific issues driving this cooperation on maritime security?
I think to look at it, we have postponed [this cooperation for] too long in the past, we focus too much on Pacific and I think we need to take care of Indian Ocean more, like this year in cooperation with the external affairs ministry. We also organised something with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) because we want to start thinking about more on Indian Ocean, not only as passing through Suez [or] Africa...it really needs to be dealt with in a very serious manner because it’s very substantial for us, the Indian Ocean.
There has been talk in the past few years of building the trilateral of India, Australia and Indonesia. Is that a trilateral with a lot of potential?
I have to say because it was the first meeting of the foreign ministers, we need to see where to go from there and we need to see the dynamics of the region, where we have AUKUS, Quad, EAS and ARF. So we need to figure out how to manage this.
There has been a lot of focus on building up connectivity between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Aceh. Are you looking at something more substantial on this front?
We are looking at it. The challenges are very apparent, we need to figure out the best way because Aceh is a special autonomous region. The discussions must be at a comfortable level so that both sides can really make this cooperation concrete. Because if not, then it’s going to create misunderstanding and misinterpretation. The needs and the potential are there, but how to connect?
Hopefully, soon we will see something moving. Indian investors have already come to Medan airport so maybe that can be an anchor to develop a network.
One of the problems in India’s neighbourhood is Myanmar. How do you see that playing out and can India and Indonesia work together on this issue?
We are working together but it needs three to tango. The third one is Myanmar. Myanmar doesn’t want to tango with India or Indonesia or Asean for that matter. It’s going to be difficult. Cambodia has done quite well in terms of keeping the window of communication open. We hope that Indonesia, as chair of Asean next year, will make the window of dialogue into a door of dialogue so that [the] five-point consensus [of Asean can be implemented].
The Ukraine conflict has given rise to concerns about something similar happening in Asia. Are there such concerns in Indonesia?
I think it’s not just because of Ukraine that there are such concerns. We are always mindful of any potential conflict in the region. I think that is why we keep pushing, for example, for nuclear-weapon-free zones. We’re also pushing for everyone to abide by the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC)...and the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. I think that shows our concern but in a positive way.