Indonesia and India are two big countries with a lot similarities. Both are democracies with big number of population. India is the largest democracy in the world and Indonesia comes third after the United States of America. While Indonesia is an archipelagic State and India is a continental State, both are developing rapidly economically. Culturally, both countries are also very similar. Values and culture of Hindu, which characterise India in general, can easily seen in the life of people in Indonesia, even though Islam is the religion of the majority of the people.
With the aforementioned similarities, it is surprising to observe that the relationship between India and Indonesia is not yet as strong as it should be. Trading value between Indonesia and India is in fact lower that that between Indonesia and Iran, for example. Collaboration between institutions in Indonesia and India needs to be improved. For these reasons, top leaders in both countries view that the relationship between India and Indonesia needs to be strengthen through the establishment of Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in both Side.
In 2015, both Indonesia and India finalised a group in each side, consisting of five persons. I am honoured to be asked by the Government of Indonesia to be a member of the Indonesia-India EPG serving at the Indonesian side. I have all the honour to serve with Dr. Dino P. Djalal (Former Ambassador of indonesia to the US), Medyatama Suryodiningrat (Director of Antara), Prof. Wiendu Nuryanti (Former Vice Minister of National Education), and Shinta Kamdani (Indonesian Chamber of Commerce). Maritime issue between the two countries is, in particular, the part of my roles in the team.
The first meeting of Indonesia-India EPG took place in Jakarta on 4-5 April 2016 where for the first time the two teams from both countries get to know each other and started conversation. The meeting went well and both parties were frank enough to talk about the reality in both sides. After the meeting, the delegation met the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Retno L.P. Marsudi. The minister delivered important message that the EPG need to hold as guidance in delivering their tasks.
For me personally, this is an opportunity to learn a lot of issues with regards to Indonesia-India relationship. Intensive and extensive trans-disciplinary interaction did enrich me without doubt.