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By Agustinus Beo Da Costa
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia and India pledged Wednesday to strengthen defense and maritime cooperation with plans developing strategic Indonesian naval port in the Indian Ocean, said the leaders of the two countries after a meeting in Jakarta.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss, among other things, the development of infrastructure and an economic zone in Sabang at the tip of Sumatra Island and at the mouth of Malacca Strait for global trade.
"India is a strategic defense partner … and we will continue our cooperation in infrastructure development, including on Sabang Island and the Andaman Islands," said Widodo at a press conference after the presidential meeting comes from concerns about China's increasing maritime influence in the region and is part of Modi's "Act East" policy, which develops closer ties with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
The ASEAN Partnership can be a force to guarantee peace and progress in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, "Modi said in a statement in Hindi.
Modi invited leaders from all ten ASEANs this year Participation in the New Delhi Daytime Parade is the largest gathering of foreign executives at the annual event.
In Southeast Asia, there was tension over the controversial South China Sea, a busy waterway that is largely claimed by China
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in this area. Every year, goods worth about $ 3 trillion are carried.
Although Indonesia is not an applicant, it has moved to Beijing Fishing rights around the Natuna Islands have been fought over and its military presence has expanded there, including the northern areas of its excl renamed the economic zone to restore its sovereignty.
Modi, who is making his first trip to Indonesia, will also visit the Istiqlal Mosque in the capital of the largest Muslim majority in the world.
The Indian leader flies to Malaysia on Thursday to meet newly-elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad before traveling to neighboring Singapore to launch a regional security forum, the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Last week, Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia's top marine minister, said Sabang's 40-meter-deep port could be built for both commercial and submarine vessels, according to media reports.
The Indonesian Minister of Transport told reporters on Wednesday that Sabang would get a transshipment port that could be developed over two years.
Asked about India's investment in Sabang, Indian Foreign Minister Preeti Saran said New Delhi was interested in building infrastructure in Southeast Asia.
"There has been discussion about the construction of infrastructure, it's not just seaports but airports," she said. "There would be great interest in Indian companies."
Widodo and Modi also signed pacts on collaboration in the pharmaceutical and technology industries
(Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in NEW DELHI; writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; editing by Clarence Fernandez)