Indonesia, India can learn inter-religious harmony: Envoy
New Delhi: Ahead of the first India Indonesia Interfaith Dialogue (IIID) to be held in the Southeast Asian nation in October, Indonesian Ambassador to India Sidharto R. Suryodipuro said that both countries can learn about inter-religious harmony from each other.
"Both of us have something to share in terms of how we manage pluralism while we strengthen tolerance, inter-religious harmony," Suryodipuro said in response to a question by IANS during an interaction with a group of journalists here organised by the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents.
"Both India and Indonesia are countries that are quite successful in managing pluralism in a democratic setting," he said.
Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population. The first IIID will be held from October 3 to 5 in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.
Observing that both Indonesia and India have a complex ethnic make-up, Suryodipuro said: "We also can learn from each other on what we are doing to strengthen this."
He was also of view that both countries can also have a message that can be sent to the international community on how to manage pluralism and tolerance.
"Out of this dialogue, we can also have something concrete come out in terms of what we should be doing internally, what we should be doing with our youth and others," he said.
The Ambassador said that in Indonesia itself, there are over a dozen or more such kind of dialogues.
"And we have been undertaking it since the early 2000s," he said.
Suryodipuro also said that Indonesia and India are enjoying one of the best periods of bilateral ties in 70 years of their diplomatic relationship.
Bilateral trade stood at $20 billion last year, the highest ever.
The Ambassador said that while half a million Indians visited Indonesia last year, 40,000 Indonesians visited India.
He also said that both India and Indonesia share the same view on the Indo-Pacific regional architecture and recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi's keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Track I annual inter-governmental security forum organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), think tank in Singapore in June.
In his speech, Modi highlighted the centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region in the Indo-Pacific region.
Indonesia is the largest country in the 10-nation regional bloc.
In terms of defence cooperation, Suryodipuro said that both Indonesia and India are in the process of laying down the groundwork.
"For example, we have been holding the coordinated patrol between Andamans and North Sumatra for over a decade," he said.
"But that had not expanded. Now, it is starting to expand into naval exercises as well as the other services of the armed forces."
The Ambassador said that both sides are looking at other than exercises, how they can exchange information better, how the members of the respective services can be sent for training in each other's countries.
Also underlining the importance of the soft side in the bilateral relationship, he identified things like "connectivity, infrastructure, trade, people-to-people connectivity and more student exchanges."