Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Indonesian Ambassador Andi M. Ghalib has said that annual bilateral trade between Indonesia and India had grown from $4 billion to $10.55 billion within a span of four years between 2005 and 2009 following the strengthening of ties between the two nations after the visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Indonesia in 2005.

Addressing an interaction with the members of the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry here on Monday, he said the two countries shared a solid foundation of values, commitment to democratic pluralism and rule of law and genuine multilateralism. Indonesia attached great importance to relations between the two countries since it perceived India as an emerging economic superpower.

Answering a question at the interaction, he said the recently signed free trade agreement between India and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would be of immense benefit to both sides. The pact had opened up a market of 580 million ASEAN people to India, of which Indonesia accounted for a population of 230 million. He said Indonesia would welcome the flow of trade, services and investments from India.

“We need to diversify and grow our trade and it is a two-way process. India is Indonesia's largest buyer of crude palm oil and an importer of its mining, petroleum and paper products. India exports refined petroleum products, wheat, rice, sugar and steel to Indonesia,” he said. Visa formalities had been simplified for Indians visiting Indonesia. They could even get their visas upon landing at Indonesian airports.

He is in Thiruvananthapuram as part of his country's initiatives to strengthen relations with people of all States in India.