Brunei-India ties going from strength to strength

Lyna Mohamad

The multi-faceted relations between Brunei Darussalam and the Republic of India mark its 31st anniversary this May, and have witnessed a steady growth during these years, which is characterised by goodwill, mutual respect and understanding.

Even during the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, both countries have endeavoured to maintain the momentum in bilateral relations through continued progress in the areas identified during the seventh round of bilateral Foreign Office Consultations in June 2019 and the First Joint Trade Committee Meeting, in September 2018.

“These two important engagements have laid down the roadmap for further strengthening and diversification of our relationship by opening new platforms for bilateral cooperation. Efforts are in on to utilise online platforms to continue this engagement.”

High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar highlighted this in his speech at the 72nd Republic Day of India reception at The Empire Brunei last night.

Minister of Defence II Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof and spouse Datin Hajah Kalshom binti Haji Suhaili attended as guests of honour.

The high commissioner said Brunei is an important country for India’s energy security, through its export of crude oil to India; crude oil represents over 90 per cent of Brunei’s exports to India, while India’s exports to Brunei include automotive, machinery, frozen bovine meat and food items, among others.

Minister of Defence II Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof and High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar during the cake cutting. PHOTOS: BAHYIAH BAKIR
Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi and spouse Datin Hajah Kalshom binti Haji Suhaili with Ajaneesh Kumar

Both sides have identified areas for cooperation including agriculture, education, ICT, science and technology and healthcare. They are also exploring bilateral cooperation in digitisation, e-commerce and e-governance.

“As part of India’s commitment to support Brunei’s capacity building programme, India has been offering training programmes for the benefit of Bruneians,” he said.

Brunei officials have participated in various training programmes, and among them, Nanosatellite Assembly and Training, cybersecurity and housing, an e-ITEC training module from October 2019.

To strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of education, India is also offering 1,000 fellowships to scholars from Brunei and other ASEAN member countries for integrated PhD programmes at globally renowned 23 Indian Institutes of Technology colleges in India.

He also highlighted the ASEAN-India online hackathon scheduled for next month, which will provide youth from ASEAN member countries the opportunity to interact, exchange views and acquire knowledge in the field of education and science and technology, and while simultaneously familiarising with the cultures, values and work ethics of others.

Brunei will be represented by six Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) students and two mentors at the hackathon, the high commissioner said.

He also expressed confidence that the friendship between the people of the two countries and the existing bilateral relations between both governments will continue to flourish and reach greater heights.

“2020 was a stressful year for the whole world as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic that shattered the global economy, which is expected to contract by about 4.3 per cent in 2020-21 and push several countries into technical recession. It posed an unprecedented challenge to our scientific community and instilled a deep sense of fear in each and every human-being.

“I must thankfully appreciate the prompt and decisive measures taken by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and strictly enforced by His Majesty’s administration in effectively containing the spread of the coronavirus in the country,” he said.

These steps have been extolled by one and all and last night’s event was testament to the effectiveness of those decisive and prompt actions initiated by His Majesty and his government, he added.

The high commissioner also congratulated Brunei on assuming the ASEAN Chairmanship for 2021.

Following the speech, the high commissioner ushered the minister and spouse for the cake cutting ceremony.