Indonesia is a sprawling archipelago, the largest in the world, consisting of over 17,000 islands of which around 6000 are inhabited. The archipelago is strategically positioned between Asia and Australia and stretches from east to west over three time zones. Its nearest neighbours in the west and north are the mainland of Malaysia and Singapore and India?s Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Its eastern neighbours are Phillipines and the mainland of New Guinea and to its southeast is Australia. The main islands of Indonesia are Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Papua and Bali.
Indonesia is a land rich in flora and fauna. Lush tropical islands are found on the western part of the archipelago while the eastern part is drier and is characterized by fauna typical to the region, like marsupials. It is also a land of volcanic activity, especially on the island of Java. With a population of 212 million, it is the largest Muslim nation in the world. Indonesia?s constitution recognizes freedom of religious practice. Adherents of all major religions of the world are found in Indonesia. Around 150-250 languages and dialects are spoken throughout the Indonesian archipelago.
Indonesians refer to their homeland as Tanah Air Kita, ?Our Earth and Water?. The area under sea territory of about 3.1 million sq. km is more than the area under land territory (about 2 million sq. km).
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Indonesia?s climate and weather is characterized by an equatorial double rainy season. Its monsoon type climate changes approximately every six months although in recent years there have been disruptions in weather patterns, possibly on account of global warming. The dry season is from June to September and the rainy season from December to March. The intervening periods are transition months in which the weather is mixed. The average temperature ranges from 23 degree C at high altitudes to 28 degree C in the coastal plains. The average relative humidity varies between 70% and 90%.
The population of Indonesia is unevenly spread over the archipelago with 80% of the total population inhabiting the islands of Java and Sumatra. According to the 2000 census, Java island which covers an area of only 7% of the total area of Indonesia is inhabited by about 59% of the total population. The seat of government, educational centres, major industries and investments are all concentrated in Java. Plantation economy sustains the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Large areas of forestland have been cleared in Sumatra and Kalimantan in recent years for palm oil plantation. The island of Bali, just east of Java is the hub of tourism in Indonesia. The Balinese are Hindus unlike the vast majority (about 88%) of the Indonesians who are Muslims.
Indonesians are basically of Malay extraction and divided into numerous ethnic groups numbering about 300. In addition to the indigenous people, Indonesia has about 6 million people of Chinese descent. Although they comprise just 3% of the population, the Chinese Indonesians control about 60% of the country?s economy. A smaller number of Arabs, Eurasians and South Asian ethnic groups are also present in Indonesia.
Source : www.lonelyplanet.com
Total Area : 5,193,250 sq. km
Land territory : 2,027,087 sq. km
Sea territory : 3,166,163 sq. km
Main islands : Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali & Papua (formerly Irian Jaya)
The Indian community in Indonesia can be broadly categorized into two groups ? Indonesians of Indian origin, mainly of Tamil, Sindhi and Punjabi extraction and Indian nationals / non resident Indians who have set up joint ventures or are employed by Indonesian or international organizations. The total number of Indonesians of Indian origin is about 50,000 most of whom are concentrated in Medan (Sumatra) and in the Javanese cities of Jakarta, Surabaya and Bandung.
Indonesia is rich in natural resources. Oil and gas accounts for a major part of the nation?s foreign exchange earnings. The country has good reserves of coal, tin, copper, nickel oxide, bauxite, gold, lead, manganese, silver, titanium, zinc etc. Agricultural products include rubber, coconut, palm oil, coffee, tea, cocoa, corn, spices, kapok, tobacco, rice etc. and an abundance of vegetables and fruits. Indonesia has some of the richest timber resources in the world and the largest concentration of tropical hardwoods. However, indiscriminate, chiefly illegal felling of trees has resulted in an alarming decrease in the forest area of Indonesia. Fishery development has been identified as a priority investment sector in Indonesia.
Since the last decade or so, the government has actively promoted the manufacturing industries for the promotion of non-oil exports. To meet domestic needs, Indonesian plants assemble various types of automobiles, trucks, buses and motorcycles under license from foreign manufacturers. Electronic equipment and electrical appliances are also produced in Indonesia. With the objective of a more equitable distribution of development gains, the government gives high priority to expansion in the less developed regions of the country and the creation of employment opportunities for the country?s growing labour force. To attract foreign capital, certain incentives are provided and several sectors are open to foreign investment.
INDONESIA & ASEAN
Indonesia was among the founding members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) that was established in 1967 in Bangkok. The association presently has ten member countries of which Indonesia is the largest ? both in area and population. ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) has come in force from January 1, 2003. Detailed information on ASEAN is available on the ASEAN Secretariat website www.aseansec.org
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT
Indonesia?s GDP of US$ 172.7 billion in 2002 was the largest in ASEAN and accounted for over 28% of the total ASEAN GDP. However, Indonesia?s global trade of US$ 88.44 billion in 2002 trails Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
CONTACTS WITH INDIA
India has age old cultural and civilizational ties with Indonesia. Around 1000 B.C., the earliest migrants from the Indian sub-continent came to Indonesia. A continuous influx of Indian settlers went on during the 1st to the 7th centuries A.D. Early trade relations were established between South India and Indonesia. Sumatra was then named ?Swarna Dwipa? or the island of gold; the island of Java was called ?Java Dwipa? or the rice island while the Hindu Kingdom on Borneo (Kalimantan) island was called Kutai. Until the 15th century A.D. many areas of present day Indonesia were ruled by Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. The world renowned Borobudur and Prambanan temples in central Java were built during the heyday of Buddhist and Hindu reigns in the 8th and 9th centuries A.D.
Gujarati and Arab traders and merchants laid the foundations for the gradual spread of Islam in Indonesia. A series of small Islamic kingdoms sprouted up and spread their roots. The Hindu Kingdom of Majapahit in East Java came under subjugation of Islamic rulers in the 16th century. The present day Balinese are the descendents of Majapahit aristocrats, priests and other higher classes who had retreated eastwards to the islands of Bali and Lombok.
INDEPENDENCE FROM DUTCH & THEREAFTER
In modern times, like India, Indonesia was ruled by a colonial power, the Dutch. Indonesia?s independence was proclaimed two years prior to India?s, on the heels of the Japanese defeat in World War II. The Republic of Indonesia came into being based on Pancasila (Sanskrit word meaning five principles, pronounced as ?Pancha?see-la? in Indonesia) under a constitution with strong Presidential powers, a Parliament, Supreme Advisory Council, State Audit Board and a People?s Consultative Assembly as the embodiment of people?s sovereignty in free Indonesia, all of which were adopted on the 18th of August, 1945. Bahasa Indonesia was recognized as the National Language. Even after the proclamation of independence, Indonesia could not actually gain control of her territories through the period 1945-49 as she struggled against the Allied Forces who were working to restore Dutch rule. World recognition of Indonesia?s sovereignty came on 29th of December, 1949 after intervention by the United Nations.
Independent Indonesia has had 5 Presidents. Three of the Presidents were elected after the financial crisis of 1998, including the current President, Mrs. Megawati Soekarnoputri who took office in July, 2001. Presidential elections are due in Indonesia in July, 2004.
Source : Embassy of India Jakarta