Evidences suggest that India and Indonesia were in trade relations for many millennia, starting from 3500 BSE. Suvarnabhumi (Sumatra) is mentioned in Jatakas, Indian epics and Mahavamsa, though there is no sequential documentation of it. The trade relations paved the way Bali importing Indian pottery, priests coming from India and getting absorbed into the Indonesian society and the India traders and priests marrying the locals and settling there, thus spreading Hinduism and Indian culture throughout Java, Bali and Sumatra. Indonesia thus got all three religions-Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam-from India.
The historical and civilizational relations continued till sixteenth century CE. The Western colonization drive of Asian countries broke this long-stood relationship. Coming to the twentieth century, Indonesia and its leaders were highly inspired by the anti-colonial views of Indian leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Rabindranath Tagore, and India extended her moral support to the freedom struggle of Indonesia. But during the post colonial era, the bilateral relations between both the countries were incoherent. The Look East Policy of India in the 1990s rejuvenated the relations and Indonesia became one of the greatest allies in fulfilling India’s South-East Asia Policy.
The scholarly articles in this volume vividly talk about topics that foster (ed) mutual relations such as culture, religion, language, traditions, education and so on, keenly drawing the attention of policy makers, trade analysts, cultural enthusiasts, investors, among a wide range of audience.
Dr Gautam Kumar Jha teaches at the Centre for Chinese & Southeast Asian Studies, School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. He did his PhD from School of International Studies, JNU, on Indonesian Political Islam. He is a recipient of National Level Awards and Token of Appreciation from Indonesian Minister of Commerce for disseminating Indonesian language and culture in India in 1999. His first book Pan-Islam and Indonesia: Indonesian Islam through the Ages was published in 2012 by Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany and the second, an edited volume India-Indonesia Bilateral Ties: An Introspection by Suryodaya Books, New Delhi in 2015. He has been regularly contributing on Indonesian affairs, language and cultural to newspapers and journals. He has been instrumental in various academic collaborations and agreements between Indonesian universities and JNU.
Dr Son Kuwadi has a his doctorate in Robotics from Tokyo Institute of Technology. He was Post-Doctoral Fellow and Assistant Professor in Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Japan during 2003-05. Currently he is teaching Control Engineering and Robotics at Graduate School of Electronic Engineering Polytechnics Institute of Surabaya (EEPIS). He was the Secretary to the Minister of Communication and Information Technology (2008-09) and as the Special Adviser to the Minister of National Education (2009-10). He was appointed as the Education Attache at Indonesian Mission in New Delhi during 2011-14.
Earliest Indian contacts with Indonesia were established centuries before the Christian era. Suvarnabhumi (Sumatra) is mentioned in the Jatakas, in the Hindu epics as well as in Mahavamsa. However there is no sequential documentation or are fact available for the same. Indian traders who mainly traded with Indonesia for spices, sandalwood, pearls and rudrakshas (Elaeocarpus ganitrus) were instrumental in establishing links between the two countries. A recent DNAanalysis of a tooth found in the imported pottery in Bali points to the presence of Indian traders in the region during the late first millennium BCE.
There are evidences to show that starting from 3500 BCE till 500 BCE there was active trade between the two countries, and Balinese were buying large amount of Indian pottery. It is also clear that during the later phase, traders who mostly made their travel through sea, brought Hindu priests with them and slowly intermingled with the locals who accepted the same without any resistance. However, there are instances of Indian traders having married the locals and bringing priests with them thus helping in the spread of Hinduism. It is also evident that India kingship and the contemporary governing system attracted the local rulers who adopted it to acquire greater power by citing that the king’s status was at par with God. Hindu religion and culture were accepted throughout Java, Bali and Sumatra, and were Buddhism, and finally Islam which entered Indonesia through Sumatra. All these religions, i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, came to Indonesia from India. The impact is so pervasive that entire Indonesia, for example, Java, Bali, Sumatra and Kalimantan exhibit traits not differing from the mainland India. India is not only the source of spiritualism for Hindus and Buddhists of Indonesia but Muslims also see India as somehow part of the Indian cultural fraternity.
India and Indonesia have experienced very close historical and civilizational relations, which was actively fostered from the ancient times to sixteenth century CE. During the Indonesian freedom struggle, its leaders were very much inspired by the anti-colonial views of Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and others.
Indian National Congress had opposed British moves by expressing its resentment over the use of Indian resources, both human and material, against Indonesia and favoured the crusade for decolonization. Jawaharlal Nehru said:
We must insist that no Indian troop is used against the government of the Indonesian Republic and that no material of war is sent from India to help the Dutch government. We must help Indonesians wherever we can.
While expressing strong solidarity with Indonesians, he stated,
I should like to convey Dr. Sukarno that if I can be of any service to the cause of Indonesian freedom, I shall gladly visit Java in spite of the urgent and important work in India.
During the post-colonial period, the bilateral relations passed through an incoherent phase coupled with confusion and misconceptions. None the less, well-wishers in both the countries worked hard to bring the derailed train back on the track. The Look East Policy efforts initiated by the Indian government during the 1990s enabled India to participate actively in the South-East Asian affairs and happily Indonesia has proved one of the greatest allies in realizing the overall objectives of this policy.
Indulging our research more on cultural relations we think that both the countries can make stronger base in order to improve their existing interactions in other fields of bilateral cooperation.
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