Moving forwards, slowly: India-Indonesia relations in the twenty-first century

25 Aug 2014

Summary: Despite being neighbours on the Indian Ocean littoral, with ties stretching back almost two millennia, relations between India and Indonesia remained largely underdeveloped. To be sure, divergent foreign policy interests meant that there was little bilateral co-operation. Whereas Indian foreign policy has, until recently, fixated on Pakistan and China, Indonesia has focussed predominately on East Asia and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Slowly, however, this is beginning to change.

China’s growing assertiveness in the region and, especially, in the South China Sea, the increasing importance of ASEAN, and the mounting challenges within the Indian Ocean Region have seen the two countries move closer to one another in recent times. Indonesia, by virtue of its size and influence in South-East Asia, is likely to become an important element of New Delhi’s future foreign policy. Similarly, India’s emergence as a possible great power and its strategic location at the heart of the Indian Ocean makes it an ideal partner for Jakarta, particularly as it aims to play a key role in developing a peaceful regional order. This will see the relationship enhanced in the twenty-first century, especially in the areas of diplomacy, security, defence, trade and people-to-people ties.

Key points

  • Despite being neighbours with long-standing historical ties, the relationship between India and Indonesia has been largely under-developed.
  • The two countries have grown much closer since the relationship was upgraded to the level of a strategic partnership in 2005.
  • Indonesia sees engagement with India as a key element in building a peaceful regional order in the coming decades, especially as a hedge against the perceived dominance of the US and China.
  • The relationship has thus improved markedly, especially in the areas of diplomacy, security and trade. Co-operation in these areas will continue apace.
Publication Details
Published year only: 
Geographic Coverage