The first thing to say about the security agreement between Indonesia and India being implemented is that it is indicative of the amount of work that has gone into it. In the process, the two countries have developed a close relationship that borders on a security pact, without the formal trappings.
The agreement comes soon after the "New Strategic Partnership" declaration signed by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The scope of the security agreement is comprehensive.
A foreign ministry spokesman in Jakarta said: "besides raising security cooperation between Indonesia and India, the agreement will also help enhance security in the region."
In other words, it is not just a bilateral development; it has a regional context as well. There has been no elaboration on how the Delhi-Jakarta security agreement will enhance regional security. One could speculate that China's emergence as a major, if not pre-eminent, regional power might have something to do with it.
In the last decade or so, China has come to loom so large in the region that Asia's existing structures like ASEAN seem to have lost their countervailing role. Indeed, countries in the region are adjusting and adapting to China's "great power" role.
It is not so much the display of China's military power -- there for all to see with its growing defense budget, nuclear weapons and anti-missile technology with space war potential -- but its creeping soft power by way of its economic strength. The regional perception of China's power is preceding its reality.
It is even more disconcerting when individuals in high places not only buy China's claim of a "peaceful rise," but take it upon themselves to promote it. Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating, now a business consultant, recently said during a speech in Jakarta that China, which "is already the motor of the world economy ? will adopt a quite considerate approach to the countries around it."
He advised the US to accommodate China in the new world order. Keating said: "A US with some vision and sense of history should be trying to construct a world order where the US is first among equals, readying for the day when its unipolar moment expires, in the context of a safe and co-operative multi-polar world."
But Alan Dupont, director of the Center for International Security Studies at Sydney University, was not so sanguine.
"Not all China's neighbors share his [Keating's] confidence. There is a general view in the region that China's rise will provide opportunities, but there are concerns that it will use its power coercively," Dupont said.
While Keating and others like him might be comfortable with a China at the center of the world, its neighbors might not be as delighted about it.
Even David Shambaugh's, director of the China policy program at George Washington University, charitable assessment of China's rise is not all that comforting.
Shambaugh said: "As a result of China's regional rise, countries all around China's periphery are adjusting their relations with Beijing, as well as with each other. Consequently, a new regional order is taking shape."
"While the North Korea and Taiwan situations could always erupt in conflict and puncture the peace," he adds, "the predominant trend in the region is the creation of an extensive web of mutual interdependence among states and non-state actors with China increasingly at the center of the web."
In other words, with China's perceived emergence as the center of a regional web, one has to be an incorrigible optimist to believe it will use this power to act as the region's benefactor.
While smaller countries on China's periphery might be inclined to accept what they believe to be the inevitability of China's rise as the revived Middle Kingdom, Indonesia and India as major regional actors in their own right do not appear ready for it. Their security agreement, although not specifically aimed at China, looks like an attempt to constrain Beijing's run as the region's top dog.
The statement by Indonesia's defense spokesman about the agreement that "the agreement will also enhance security in the region," is telling.
In a report on the India-Indonesia security agreement, the Jakarta Post said: "Experts also said working with India would be a way for Indonesia to help ASEAN nations check the power of China in the region."
The security agreement between India and Indonesia, said a defense ministry spokesman in Jakarta, could include human resource training, the exchange of officers, joint border patrols, counter terrorism and battling sea piracy.
Another important area of cooperation for the two is likely to be maritime security in the Indian Ocean and the sea lanes that traverse the region as a conduit for international trade.
At a time when Indonesia is engaged in diversifying its defense supplies, the agreement could also become the basis for military equipment purchases from India and the establishment of joint production facilities.
All in all, it could mark the beginning of an extensive relationship between Asia's two largest democracies.
This has long been an untapped relationship, somehow lost in the vagaries of time. But now the time seems right to reconnect and bolster relations, with China's power projection looming in the background as a motivating force.
Indonesia and India are overwhelmingly rural societies with large populations and high unemployment rates. They require an economic growth model that will not pit rural against urban (industrial) and traditional against "modern" segments of society.
China is creating a rural-urban divide which could become the source of future problems. Compounding the matter is the absence of democracy in China, which minimizes the scope for course correction when things go wrong, with violent social upheaval as the likely outcome.
Any growth model for India and Indonesia, while aiming for industrial and technological transformation, must also create jobs on a large scale through strategies of simultaneous development of the rural sector by improving infrastructure, market access, support services, education and health and by fostering small townships with ancillary industry and financial centers catering to rural needs.
India and Indonesia now have the opportunity to expand their relationship to cover the entire gamut of national activities and come up with practical solutions to the problems encountered during nation building and economic growth. This could thus provide an alternative economic model as well as create a countervailing security structure to constrain China.
Sushil Seth is a writer based in Australia.
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