IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


10th January, 2024 International Relations


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  • The PM conducted a bilateral meeting with Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar.

Historical Context:

Diplomatic Recognition:

  • India formally recognized Timor-Leste shortly after its independence in 2002, establishing diplomatic relations.

Economic and Development Cooperation:

Bilateral Trade:

  • The bilateral trade between India and Timor-Leste is relatively modest.
  • In 2021, Timor-Leste exported $901 to India. The main products exported from Timor-Leste to India were Medical Instruments ($901).
  • During the last 18 years, the exports of Timor-Leste to India have decreased at an annualized rate of 16.4%, from $22.7k in 2003 to $901 in 2021.
  • In 2021, India exported $28.8M to Timor-Leste. The main products exported from India to Timor-Leste were Rice ($20.4M), Raw Sugar ($6.02M), and Packaged Medicaments ($603k).
  • During the last 26 years the exports of India to Timor-Leste have increased at an annualized rate of 41.6%, from $54.8k in 1995 to $28.8M in 2021.

Development Assistance:

  • India has been involved in providing developmental assistance to Timor-Leste. This includes projects related to infrastructure development, capacity building, and human resource development.

Agreements and MOUs:

  • The two countries have signed bilateral agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to strengthen cooperation in various sectors. These agreements may cover areas such as trade, education, culture, and technology.

Capacity Building and Development Cooperation

  • Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in January 2003, India and TLhave been cooperating at bilateral, regional and international levels.

Capacity Building:

  • India continues to strongly support TL's developmental path and is eager to cooperate and contribute in TL's tasks of nation building.
  • India extends 2 ITEC training slots and 10 ICCR scholarships every year.
  • India offers slots to TL for training of their diplomats at the Foreign Service Institute of India. We cooperated with East Timor Development Agency to get nomination for women trainees.

Grant in Aid: 

  • GOI approved a Grant in Aid to TL in October 2008 for infrastructure projects. An amount of US$ 100,000 was transferred by the Mission to TL in March 2010.

Cooperation in Health Sector and supply of Ambulance:

  • A fully-equipped Ambulance unit that can serve as a mobile operation theatre was formally handed over to the Health Ministry of TL in January 2016.
  • Additional equipment for the Ambulance – Anesthesia Machine and Patient Monitor – were supplied to Timor Leste in July 2017.
  • An MOU in the field of healthcare and public health was signed between India and Timor Leste on 7 April 2018 during the visit of Hon’ble MOS for Social Justice and Empowerment to Dili.

Centre of Excellence in IT: 

  • The project for setting up of a Centre of Excellence in IT in Dili was conceived in 2004 and subsequently revised with a new draft MOU which was shared with the TL side in March 2014 and last in March 2018.
  • Concurrence of the TL side for the MOU is awaited.

Bamboo Project: 

  • The project “Establishment of Bamboo Skills Development and Demonstration Centre in TL” was initially started by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in October 2004.
  • The project with a combined budget of US$ 1 million was completed in March 2012.
  • The Indian technical partner was Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre (CBTC) in Assam.
  • The objective of this project is to establish bamboo as thriving industry sector in TL.
  • A Skills Development Centre was also established to create awareness of the potential and to train craftsmen.

Project under IBSA Fund:

  • Project under IBSA Fund: The project, “Conservation Agriculture, Permaculture and Sustainable Fisheries Management: Enhancing Food and Nutrition Security and Reducing Risk Disaster in TL’ was funded by IBSA for a total cost of US $ 1.4 million.
  • The project was developed by FAO in TL along with 2 NGOs - “naTerra’ and “Conservation International” - under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of TL, was implemented in the remote part of the Aautro Island of Timor-Leste.
  • As a part of the project, Sustainable Agriculture & Permaculture Learning Centre was formally inaugurated by Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries and Ambassador on 11 April, 2019 at Atekru, in Aaturo Island.
  • The Centre would serve as a learning centre for sustainable agriculture and natural resources conservation and development, thereby enhancing productivity in agricultural, horticultural and fisheries sector of the Island.

Project under India – UN Development Partnership Fund: 

  • The project titled, “Leveraging ICT to improve Education and Skills in Timor Leste” was launched on a pilot basis in 2019.
  • It would train all 1007 children at primary school and 4370 young students attending secondary school in developing computer and mobile-based educative games in the local language of Timor-Leste, Tetum, in the areas of financial, education, business development and environment awareness as well as train teachers and educators.
  • The project, budgeted to a tune of US $ 881,194 from India-UN Development Partnership Fund, aims at enhancing IT literary in schools, with a coverage of 12 schools, both through IT innovation labs and mobile IT innovation vans.

Indian community

  • Currently, about 30 Indians are working as advisors in various Ministries, UN agencies and international donors.
  • Some Indians are entrepreneurs and are engaged in trading and restaurant business.
  • The Indian community has formed a friendship society called ‘Association of Indians in Timor Leste’ in February 2017.

UN Peacekeeping:

Common Participation in UN Peacekeeping:

  • Both India and Timor-Leste have contributed troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions, reflecting shared commitments to global peace and security.

Challenges and Opportunities:

Economic Opportunities:

  • The economic potential for increased trade and investment between India and Timor-Leste provides opportunities for mutual benefit. Exploring avenues for collaboration in sectors like agriculture, technology, and renewable energy can be beneficial.

Developmental Challenges:

  • Timor-Leste faces developmental challenges, and India's expertise in areas such as healthcare, education, and technology can contribute to addressing these challenges.

Geopolitical Considerations:

  • The geopolitical dynamics of the region may influence India-Timor-Leste relations. A nuanced approach considering regional factors is essential for effective diplomacy.

Timor-Leste’s role in India's Act East Policy

  • Timor-Leste plays a significant and evolving role in India's Act East Policy, which is a strategic initiative aimed at strengthening India's ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Here's a discussion on the role of Timor-Leste in India's Act East Policy:

Strategic Geopolitical Location:

  • Timor-Leste's geographical location in Southeast Asia makes it strategically important for India's outreach in the region.
  • It provides India with an entry point to engage with the ASEAN countries and reinforces India's presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Economic Engagement:

  • Timor-Leste offers economic opportunities for India, particularly in sectors like oil and gas exploration.
  • Strengthening economic ties aligns with the economic objectives of India's Act East Policy, promoting trade, investment, and technology exchange.

Diplomatic Cooperation:

  • Diplomatically, Timor-Leste adds to India's network of friends in the region.
  • By building diplomatic ties with Timor-Leste, India enhances its influence in international forums and reinforces its commitment to fostering peaceful and cooperative relations in the Indo-Pacific.

Developmental Assistance:

  • India's developmental assistance to Timor-Leste contributes to capacity building and human resource development.
  • By participating in Timor-Leste's development journey, India showcases its commitment to shared prosperity and stability in the region.

Cultural Exchanges:

  • Cultural exchanges between India and Timor-Leste foster people-to-people ties. This cultural diplomacy aspect is an essential component of the Act East Policy, aiming to strengthen the historical and cultural bonds between India and Southeast Asian nations.

Strategic Partnership and Security Cooperation:

  • A strategic partnership with Timor-Leste can provide India with opportunities for security cooperation, particularly in the context of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific. Collaborative efforts can contribute to regional stability and counter common security challenges.

ASEAN Connectivity:

  • Timor-Leste's potential membership in ASEAN can further enhance India's connectivity with the ASEAN community. This aligns with India's efforts to deepen its engagement with regional organizations, a key pillar of the Act East Policy.

Energy Security:

  • Timor-Leste's oil and gas resources contribute to India's energy security objectives. Collaborative efforts in the energy sector can strengthen bilateral ties and support India's economic interests.

Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR):

  • Timor-Leste's vulnerability to natural disasters provides opportunities for India to engage in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. Such cooperation reflects India's commitment to regional stability and resilience.
  • In conclusion, Timor-Leste plays a multifaceted role in India's Act East Policy, contributing to economic, diplomatic, cultural, and security dimensions. As both nations continue to strengthen their ties, the relationship with Timor-Leste remains integral to India's broader strategic goals in the Indo-Pacific region.


Q. Evaluate and analyze the strategic dimensions of India's diplomatic, economic, and developmental engagement with Timor-Leste. Highlight the key areas of collaboration, challenges, and the potential impact of this relationship on regional dynamics. Additionally, discuss the role of Timor-Leste in India's Act East Policy, emphasizing the significance of such partnerships in the evolving geopolitical landscape.