EMPOWERING INDONESIA’S DEFENSE DIPLOMACY IN ASIA PACIFIC

Presiden Rusia Vladimir Putin dan Presiden Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (https://en.kremlin.ru/)

Writer: Hendra Manurung (Hendra Manurung is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in international relations at Padjadjaran University, Bandung)

Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto visited eight countries since being officially inaugurated by President Joko Widodo on 20 October 2019. On 23 October 2019, he visited Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey, China, Japan, France, and finally Russia. Prabowo carried out a number of missions. It began with the release of Indonesian citizens who were held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines to increasing strategic cooperation in the field of bilateral defense.

However, the intensity of Prabowo’s visit invited criticism from several groups such as DPR members and defense military observers but received support from President Joko Widodo. The President emphasized that Prabowo’s working visit was carried out in the context of carrying out and intensify Indonesia’s defense diplomacy abroad.

One of the objectives of the Minister of Defense is to strengthen and modernize the main tools of the Indonesian weaponry system, by exploring the possibility of procurement from defense equipment producing countries that cannot yet be fulfilled by the domestic defense industry as well as offering Indonesian weapons system products that are already capable of being produced by the domestic defense industry, such PT. Pindad Bandung and PT PAL Surabaya to other consumer countries.

Indonesia Defense Diplomacy

Efforts to seize and defend Indonesian independence involve all components of the nation in various ways. For example, the army and the people take up arms on the battlefield, and diplomats are fighting at the diplomatic negotiating table with diplomats from other countries, for example in the General Offensive on 1 March 1949.

This Indonesian heroic military action in reclaiming Dutch-controlled Jogjakarta was also intended to show the international community that Indonesia and the TNI still existed. The success of the Indonesian military attack then became ammunition for diplomats to thrill the negotiating table.

As a result, the Netherlands recognized Indonesia’s sovereignty in a Round Table Conference on 27 December 1949. This is because diplomacy was originally intended to eliminate conflict, ease tensions, avoid war, and end the war (Simamora, Opportunities, and Challenges of Defense Diplomacy: 2013).

Indonesia also had the experience of having a formidable defense weaponry system during the struggle against Dutch colonialism and after proclaiming independence on August 17, 1945. Among them, the ownership of various types of modern combat aircraft at that time, such as the TU-16-KS bomber, the Mig-15 fighter plane / 17/19/21, Ilyuhsin, and attack helicopters. Also, the Indonesian warship, the destroyer class KRI Irian, which became the largest ship in the Southeast Asia region, were all purchased from the Soviet Union (currently is the Russian Federation). The defense equipment was used by the Indonesian armed forces for propaganda to reclaim West Irian from the hands of the Dutch, 1962 to 1963.

The superiority of Indonesian defense equipment in the Asia Pacific region is used optimally as a major support for diplomacy negotiation against the arbitrariness of Western countries against the territory of the country that was once colonized.

However, apart from the shrewdness of President Soekarno who took advantage of his closeness to the Soviet Union as a bargaining power to garner support from the United States, diplomats used it well until West Irian was finally captured. Thus, defense diplomacy has been carried out by the country’s leaders since the beginning of independence and during the war after independence.

Defense diplomacy is actually a new vocabulary in the world of international relations. The term defense diplomacy first appeared in the UK Department of Defense’s Strategic Defense Review which was published in 1998. The main focus of SDR’s version of defense diplomacy aimed at the countries of the former Soviet Union and former members of the Warsaw Pact is to carry out reforms in the security sector and conflict prevention. For this reason, as explained by Cottey and Forster (in Sulayman: 2016).

Defense diplomacy can be defined as the use of armed forces and related infrastructure during peacetime as a main supporting tool to pursue the main objectives of foreign policy and national defense.

Obviously, Article 1 Paragraph 1 of Law Number 3 of 2002 concerning State Defense explicitly states that national defense is all efforts to defend the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia.

The post-Indonesian proclamation, as the largest archipelagic country in the world that has a commitment and concern for the implementation of international world order and lasting peace, Indonesia certainly avoids using any hard power in facing threats from other countries. Indonesia places diplomacy as the first line of defense. This is also parallel with Indonesia’s defense doctrine which is defensive, not offensive.

However, defense diplomacy to maintain and achieve national interest cannot be separated from how much national power one has. One of the nine national powers, referring to Morgenthau, is military capabilities. Mearsheimer said the military is the actual power for a country.

Therefore, military power needs to be increased in attack and defense capacity in line with the need to strengthen defense diplomacy in international relations. Indonesia was able to carry out high-profile diplomacy which was very calculated during the Old Order era (1945-1966), one of which was inseparable from the power of defense equipment it had through the support and military assistance of the Soviet Union.

In the early days of reform after the fall of the New Order on 20 May 1998, the condition of the national defense equipment was appalling. At that time, Indonesia could not maintain and modernize defense equipment due to the Washington D.C embargo decision which was lifted in 2005. For this reason, the government is determined to strengthen our defense equipment. One of them is the minimum essential forces (MEF) which are targeted to be achieved 100 percent by 2024.

Indonesian defense diplomacy mission of the current defense minister showed his goodwill to many countries, one of which is to strengthen bilateral defense relations and cooperation strategically. This includes enhancing bilateral relations through defense cooperation and boosting military capacity to contribute to peace mission operations in countries facing conflict.

Various shortcomings in the procurement of defense equipment in the past are valuable lessons not to be repeated, for example, the dependence on defense equipment in one particular country.

The eight countries visited can illustrate that the Indonesian government is building strategic defense cooperation, including efforts to increase the modernization of defense equipment. Everything is done through the procurement of modern, efficient, transparent, and scalable defense equipment. However, it is also offered for domestic products to be used by other countries to support accelerate the growth of the domestic defense industry.

In the early days of reform after the fall of the New Order on 20 May 1998, the condition of the national defense equipment was appalling. At that time, Indonesia could not maintain and modernize defense equipment due to the US embargo which was lifted in 2005. For this reason, the government is determined to strengthen our defense equipment. One of them is the minimum essential forces (MEF) which are targeted to be achieved 100 percent by 2024.

In the midst of the United States and China rivalries in the South China Sea region from 2017 to the present time, the Indonesian defense diplomacy mission done by Prabowo showed his goodwill to many countries, one of which is to strengthen defense relations positively. This includes enhancing bilateral relations through defense cooperation and increasing military capacity to contribute to peace mission operations in countries facing conflict.

Various shortcomings in the procurement of defense equipment in the past are valuable lessons not to be repeated, for example, the country dependence on defense equipment in one particular country.

The eight countries visited can illustrate that the Indonesian government is building strategic defense cooperation, including efforts to increase the modernization of defense equipment. Everything is done through the procurement of modern, efficient, transparent, and scalable defense equipment. However, it is also offered for domestic products to be used by other countries to help accelerate the growth of the domestic defense industry.

Intensive care and how to start a road map towards defense industry independence must indeed be initiated and implemented by all Indonesian stakeholders of the national defense system. This is confirmed to be in line with the presidential instruction to reduce imports and dependence on defense equipment from major powers in the Asia Pacific region.

However, preferably, for defense equipment products which the domestic defense industry cannot yet provide, it is better if the purchasing mechanism from abroad should be pursued in the interest of a strong national defense and not easily underestimated.

Therefore, in the procurement of defense equipment, both from within and outside the country, Indonesia must prioritize four principles or the so-called politics of procurement of the main tools of the national weapon system, namely: efficiency, geopolitics, geo-economy, geo-strategy, budget efficiency, and transfer of military weaponry technology, and the ability to sell Indonesian weaponry to various countries.

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