Festival Celebrates Indonesia-India Ties

BY :RABAB HANNAN

JANUARY 28, 2015

Jakarta. Enchanting tunes of classical Indian music reverberated through the opening ceremony of Sahabat India as former President Megawati Soekarnoputri launched the Festival of India in Indonesia at Jakarta’s Taman Ismail Marzuki concert hall on Monday night.

Indian Ambassador to Indonesia and Timor-Leste Gurjit Singh welcomed more than a hundred guests to the three-month-long festival celebrating India’s social, economic and cultural engagement with Indonesia.

Ambassador Singh welcomed guests to Monday’s ceremony, which commemorated India’s 66th Republic Day, with the slogan “Sahabat India,” meaning “trustful, loyal, true friend.”

Megawati’s surprise appearance stunned the crowd. “As the fifth president of the Republic of Indonesia and as chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle [PDI-P], I have always reminded [myself] that is very important to build friendship and cooperation between nations.”

Megawati highlighted Indonesia’s profound friendship and respect for India in its appreciation of ahimsa, one of Hinduism’s cardinal virtues and the essence of non-violence.

“As nations we both possess many similar values: ahimsa, for example,” Megawati said. “Ahimsa is an instrument effective in struggling for advancement … to stand on our own feet, which has become the basis of Indonesia’s formation: integrity and character in our culture.”

“It is this cultural link and a long friendship that unifies our nations and people. This festival serves as a platform for strengthening relations between India and Indonesia.”

Trade Minister Rahmat Gobel also used the opportunity to emphasize the festival’s importance for strengthening trade and investment between the two countries in the coming years of President Joko Widodo’s government.

“Indonesia and India already enjoy a robust economic relationship in which India has become Indonesia’s largest trading partner, export market and source of imports from South Asia,” he said.

“However, I understand that there are hurdles and challenges to overcome, therefore we must work together to break down barriers to trade and investment,” Rahmat added. “I look forward to the commencement of the negotiation of the Indonesian India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement for the benefit of both our nations.”

Miss Indonesia India 2015 contestants also participated in the ceremony ahead of their competition’s finale later this month.

The festival will run through May 2015, programming for which includes Indian folk dances, Bollywood film exhibitions and various food and entertainment events.

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