India, Indonesia to Set up Task force to Enhance Connectivity Between Andaman and Sabang

India and Indonesia have agreed to set up a special task force to enhance connectivity between the strategic Andaman and Nicobar Islands and provinces in Sumatera Island to promote trade, tourism and people-to-people contacts.

The decision was announced in a joint statement issued after the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joko Widodo here.

As maritime neighbours, the two countries underlined the importance of stronger connectivity, particularly on sea links, in order to facilitate economic cooperation and people-to-people contact, said the statement.

It said the two leaders noted the successful visit of coordinating minister of maritime affairs of Indonesia to India on May 17-19.

They appreciated the decision to set up a Joint Task Force to undertake projects for port related infrastructure in and around Sabang, which is the closet Indonesian island (90 nautical miles) from Andaman and Nicobar islands.

“The leaders welcomed the plan to build connectivity between Andaman Nicobar-Aceh to unleash the economic potentials of both areas,” it said.

According to a statement documenting a ‘Shared Vision of India-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific’, the two sides will take necessary steps to enhance connectivity between Andaman and Nicobar Islands and provinces in Sumatera Island to promote trade, tourism and people-to-people contacts; facilitate Business to Business linkages between the Chamber of Commerce of Andaman and the ones of the Provinces in Sumatera, including Aceh.

The two sides will work towards creation of Andaman Sea tourismby improving connectivity between Sabang Island and Port Blair as well as Havelock Island in Andaman for promotion of sail tourism, cruise ships, marine adventure sports, diving and wellness tourism.

Responding to a question whether Indian Naval Ships will get access to Sabang port, Preeti Saran, Secretary (East), evaded a direct reply and said, “I dont think these details were discussed.”

She said several Indian and Indonesian companies are keen to build infrastructure, ports, airports etc.

Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan recently said that India has expressed interest in investing in the westernmost area of Indonesia.

“The India’s investment plan in Sabang (Aceh) is in the form of a hospital and a sea port there because it is close to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,” Luhut was quoted as saying by Indonesia’s official Antara news agency.

He said Indonesia welcomed the plans because the cooperation between the two countries is expected to have an impact on the security and stability in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

“I think it is important to build balance power be built here, so that no superpower could create instability,” he had said.