“The number of Indians working in Indonesia compared to Indonesians working in India is like comparing sky and soil. We issue 7,000 visas to Indians every year but not even 10 Indonesians come to India annually… The biggest reason is opportunities in Indonesia, our people think why leave it? Another big reason is the rumours that Indian companies’ policies and immigration rules are not that good,” said Saut Siringoringo, Consul-General of the Republic of Indonesia, Mumbai.
In Pune to visit a few Indonesian companies and a university, Siringoringo gave an exclusive interview to The Indian Express, highlighting the reasons for fewer Indonesians working in India. “I’ll give you an example. In India, Indonesians are most preferred at spa centres. But according to your rules, a spa therapist must be paid at least $2,500. Which company can afford it? In Goa, people are going back as employers cannot afford them. This is a way to protect Indian workers,” he said.
In fact, he said, the problem is not just about Indonesians seeking employment at Indian companies but Indonesians seeking jobs in their own companies. “Even for Indonesians to work in Indonesian companies in India is not an easy task because of the immigration policies here. This month, an accounts manager abandoned his job after living here for six years and working in Indonesian company. Last year, he was stranded in Indonesia for three months after he went home for a holiday. When he was due to return, the consulate there said ‘Why should we give this position to you, we have a lot of Indians to do it’. They also asked the man to show the advertisement issued five years ago to prove if the company wants him. How can you such a thing? These incidents discourage our people,” he said.
Stating that the immigration policies here discourage even Indonesian companies to invest in India, Siringoringo said that since he arrived in India, no companies have set up a base, despite his requests at trade fairs. “Also, for Indians, maybe Indonesians are not as interesting investors as others. Though I ask my companies to come here, I don’t want them to run into trouble in the future with immigration policies. So, I advice them to check if an agreement is there. I’ll give un an example: Until the beginning of last year, Indonesians were given visa on arrival. Then they changed it to online visa last year. But we were not informed about the change. Your embassy or Consul-General didn’t explain it to anyone. A big businessman had come to Chennai and on arrival he was stranded at the Indian airport, there was no online visa. There was no flexibility,” he said.
Asking about the purpose of the Make in India campaign, he said, “What is this Make in India for? Is it to get people to invest here. I am sorry to say that I cannot stimulate or encourage my people to come here like this,” he said.
Meanwhile, he was quick to add that Indonesians living in India have shared good stories about the country. “They like India, the people treat them well. They are happy to be here,” he said.
Speaking about India-Indonesia trade relations, he said that despite having so many similarities, the two countries have ignored each other for too long. “I personally regret that our trade relations are only 16 billion dollars, whereas Indonesia-China trade is almost 100 billion dollars. What makes them different? While India is so similar in terms of culture, while geographically too we are closer. But we have not been very serious in handling trade and cultural relations. We have neglected each other for too long,” said Siringoringo.