The surprisingly subdued tourism activity between Indonesia and India is likely to soon get a boost as Indonesian airline Garuda prepares for direct flights to key cities here.

With a new fleet of aircraft, Garuda will, by June, have direct flights between Jakarta and New Delhi and Mumbai, said Andi M. Ghalib, Indonesian Ambassador to India. Speaking to reporters on Thursday Mr. Ghalib said that these proposed flights, along with the visas on arrival offered mutually by the two countries will have a positive impact on both tourism and trade.

“Of the seven million tourists who come to Indonesia annually, only 120,000 are Indian, despite the proximity of the countries. Indians go to Singapore, but don't seem to come to Indonesia even though it is 25 minutes by air from here,” he said. The Ambassador added that the reasons for this low turnout could include the lack of direct flights and also paucity of information about the country.

The Indian Government's decision, earlier this year, to give Indonesians visas on arrival in India will boost bilateral relations further. “Indonesia has for nearly a decade offered visas on arrival to Indians. The Indian government's decision to extend this facility is something we are happy about.”

Indonesia also intends to go in for an agreement with HAL for the purchase or aircraft.

Growing ties

Illustrating the growing ties between the two growing economies, he said that 32 MoUs had been signed recently, both between governments and businesses. “The leaders of the two countries, in 2005, had hoped to see a bilateral trade volume of US$10 billion by 2010. That target has been surpassed and the figure stands at US$12 billion now. The new target for bilateral trade has been set for US$25 billion by 2025.”

Some 700 Indian business delegates are expected to attend a CEO summit to be organised in Jakarta in March. The ‘India-ASEAN Business Summit' will look for Indian investments in infrastructure development, research and development, and health facilities, said Mr. Ghalib.

Large Indian companies have already begun investing in Indonesia including the Reliance, Tata and Essar groups, he added.

Garuda preparing to operate direct flights to key cities in India