Yup, to paraphrase Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, it hasn’t been a good few days in the Australia–Indonesia relationship. The story de jour, of course, has continued to be allegations that Australian authorities have been tapping the phones of Indonesian President and his close circle. At the time of writing, the Australian PM has rejected calls to apologise while Indonesia’s Ambassador to Australia is on his way back to Jakarta.
But it’s important to remember that even through diplomatic lulls, the relationship continues to function. For one, TNI-AU and RAAF began their biennial exercise Elang AusIndo in Darwin today. The bilateral exercise focuses on airborne interception and involves eight Australian FA-18s, six Indonesian F-16s and 200 personnel from both sides. For images of past iterations of Elang AusIndo, check out Defence’s image gallery here (2009) and here (2011) or The Base Leg blog (2011). Continue reading
Instead of the usual Indonesia defence and military links, I wrapped up recent developments and commentary on allegations of Australian spying on Indonesia over on The Strategist (original version available here):
Last week, the furore over spying allegations revealed in reports leaked by Edward Snowden that rocked Europe reached Australia. On Thursday 31 October, Fairfax papers reported that Australia had been spying on its neighbour from its Jakarta Embassy. Continue reading
Welcome back to the working week!
Last week, my colleague Benjamin Schreer argued that Indonesia will side with the US, despite its (long-standing) non-alignment policy. I have a different view: I think it’s too early to tell, unless something dramatically changes in the strategic environment that causes a fundamental rethink in Jakarta. Relations with China are far more complicated than Ben describes (and in fairness, can describe in a blog post). In particular, I don’t see Indonesia’s bilateral relations with China and the US as zero sum as Ben suggests here:
However, should China continue to push the strategic envelope in Southeast Asia, it’s very likely that Indonesia will not only push back but will also increase its strategic cooperation with the US.
I’d like to kick things off with a bit of discussion about Indonesia’s strategic environment. At the office today we talked a little bit about the Natuna Islands in light of Scott Bentley’s Strategist post on China’s nine-dash line and Indonesia. Scott’s post explores a less publicised but no less severe incident in March this year between Chinese and Indonesian maritime security forces in the Natuna EEZ. In his words:
China’s growing enforcement of its expansive claims poses a direct threat to the national security of Indonesia. With this tension between neutrality and self-interest becoming more pronounced in recent years, analysts such as [Ristian Atriandi] Supriyanto have begun to question whether this new dynamic may lead Indonesia to begin to ‘balance’ against China in the years ahead, along with its other neighbours. Indeed, there may be elements of such behaviour already becoming evident in Indonesia’s broader security strategy.
Could giving the Indonesian military the right to vote speed up internal reforms? (Also, check out Evan Laksmana’s thoughts in 2010 on this issue)
According to The Australian, ‘Indonesia has experienced a more than 50 per cent surge in pirate attacks in the first half of 2013’ mostly around the Riau province.
A new-ish RSIS report on TNI’s counter-terrorism task force by Jennifer Yang Hui.
Former Kopassus commander and presidential hopeful, Prabowo Subianto, makes a last effort to woo voters with promises of cash. Sigh. We’ll see what happens come April next year.
Lastly, a bit of Indonesian military history with a video on Konfrontasi via Indonesian blog, Garuda Militer:
Only a few bits and pieces for today, including:
It seems like the Indonesian police and military are brawling at night clubs (again, sigh). Perhaps they should drop their status before stepping into the club, suggests a member of the National Police Commission.
A new report on human rights links Australian Iroquois helicopters to the alleged indiscriminate shooting of Papuans by the Indonesian military in the late 1970s. DFAT and Defence are reportedly looking into the matter.
Lastly, the female members of TNI and POLRI come out in force on Kartini Day. I couldn’t resist adding this boss picture (above) from this year’s parade in April.
Image source: Tribun News.
Here’s your daily dose of Indonesia defence related news and links:
RSIS analyst Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto is quoted in this Asia Report article as saying Indonesia’s air exercises over the Natuna Islands (near the South China Sea) send a political signal to China: “In this sense, the exercises are meant to reassert and demonstrate Indonesia’s sovereignty in the Natunas.”
Over at The Strategist, ANU’s Daniel Grant looks at Australian defence policy and Indonesia. He argues, “[b]ut Australia should consider the possibility that we’ve already seen the full extent of Indonesia’s ‘Westward’ shift.”
Here’s the reblog of my latest Strategist post:
On 21 August, the Indonesian House of Representatives endorsed the candidacy of General Moeldoko, Indonesia’s Army Chief, moving him a step closer to becoming commander TNI. With defence ties a key pillar of the Australia–Indonesia bilateral relationship, it’s worth knowing more about the Indonesia’s future military leader (known as ‘Panglima TNI’) and what this means for Australia.
Moeldoko finished top of his class and is generally considered to be a high-performing officer. If his first public statements can be taken to encapsulate his approach to the military, then expect an emphasis on military professionalism and soldier welfare. Moeldoko has promised to improve soldiers’ welfare by increasing their pay by 15%. He also intends to improve soldier discipline, minimise the import of foreign military equipment in order to support Indonesia’s defence industry and remain neutral during the upcoming 2014 elections.
Long live Indonesia, indeed! President SBY’s ambitions in this year’s national day address (delivered on 16 August ahead of Indonesia’s Independence day on 17 August) included continuing economic development, expanding Indonesia’s role as a global diplomatic actor, maintaining religious harmony and stability, and protecting the sovereignty of the Indonesian state.
At a glance, SBY’s key messages and points on international-related issues included:
- The Asia-Pacific region requires a new paradigm (an Indo-Pacific Treaty) to increase mutual trust and eliminate the use of force in settling disputes, being based on the spirit of unity;
- Indonesia remains committed to the establishment of the ASEAN Community by 2015;
- On Syria, “the world should not stand idly by and let the humanitarian crisis continue.”;
- The use of military force towards protesters in Egypt is contrary to the values of democracy and humanity;
- The theme of this year’s APEC meeting chaired by Indonesia will be ‘Resilient Asia-Pacific, Engines of Global Growth’;
- On Papua, “Indonesia will act decisively in the face of any threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI)”;
- SBY hopes that all parties would work actively to prevent political activities [concerning Papua] that could lead to disruptions in Indonesia’s relations with friendly states.
I’m not talking about the hit Indonesian martial arts film about a crack police team raiding an abandoned building and fighting gangsters. I’m talking about the commencement last Thursday of the trial for 12 Kopassus soldiers who are accused of raiding Yogyakarta’s Sleman prison in March and killing four detainees.
The Kopassus soldiers are alleged to have carried out the shootings in revenge for the fatal stabbing of a Kopassus sergeant in a Yogya nightclub after a dispute with the detainees, who turned out to be gang members. When the case hit the media, there were varying levels of public denial from military leadership about Kopassus involvement. Some, like former intelligence chief (and former Kopassus member) Hendro Priyono who attended the trial on Thursday, had defended the special forces soldiers by pointing to the initial stabbing as a ‘human rights violation’. The trial and mixed messages of senior leadership (both currently serving and retired) make it a current case of the continuing challenges of TNI reform. Also of note is the extent to which they shape public perception of the extra-judicial killings.