Indonesia

In 2014, the Ministry of Defence was the biggest recipient of state spending, in an effort to improve Indonesia’s Minimum Essential Forces (MEF) capacity. At the moment, even though increased compared to the previous year –US $6,9 billion, in 2014-, defence spending at 0.9% of the GDP (2015) is still far below the target of 1.5% (to be achieved by 2020). At the same time, increased security risks such as internal conflicts, border disputes, terrorism and transnational security issues, have justified the increase in the spending budget allocated for the national police, by 42%, for 2016.

Indonesia is a country of great geopolitical importance in South-East Asia, with ample land and territorial waters, strategic crossroads for maritime traffic, as well as with the world’s largest Muslim population. While facing internal concerns, in addition to Islamic extremists, Indonesia tries to cope with territorial disputes through diplomacy and strengthening of its defence capabilities.

The Indonesian National Armed Forces, known as Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) consisting of the army, navy, marines and air force –ABRI-, has approximately 390,000 active-duty personnel, with the army alone accounting for about 280,000 of those.

In 2014, the Ministry of Defence was the biggest recipient of state spending, in an effort to improve Indonesia’s Minimum Essential Forces (MEF) capacity. At the moment, even though increased compared to the previous year –US $6,9 billion, in 2014-, defence spending at 0.9% of the GDP (2015) is still far below the target of 1.5% (to be achieved by 2020). At the same time, increased security risks such as internal conflicts, border disputes, terrorism and transnational security issues, have justified the increase in the spending budget allocated for the national police, by 42%, for 2016.

According to the SIPRI database, arms imports by the Republic of Indonesia have increased significantly in the last decade, after the lift of the weapons embargo, imposed by the EU (1999-2000) and the US (1999-2005), in response to human rights violations in East Timor. More specifically, in 2014, about US $950 million of military equipment was imported by Indonesia from its top 10 arms supplying nations, with the UK’s exports to Indonesia for the year rising to US $540 million (see chart below).

In an area of utmost geopolitical and economic importance, Indonesia should be ready to defend its interests against any threat. Considering that related risks may arise at any time, but always following the “A million friends, zero enemies” strategy, Jakarta seeks to play a more prominent role regionally, while actively strengthening co-operative relations with countries from around the world. In fact, taking advantage of the US initiatives to halt China’s expansion, and with a willingness to play a leading role in the ASEAN region, while ensuring the free flow of traffic through the waterways for China, Indonesia has managed to satisfy all ‘appetites’.

The arms embargos imposed on Indonesia in the past, have taught Jakarta to seek armaments from multiple countries, rather than to rely on one main defence supplier. In that context, in March 2011, China and Indonesia signed a major Memorandum of Understanding on defence, which encouraged greater military co-operation, technology transfer, equipment upgrades and defence training. A year later, the two countries announced the joint production of missiles for the Indonesian Navy, as part of Indonesia’s defence policy, known as “Minimum Essential Force”.

On the other side, the US keep a close eye on the rising regional tensions, with the expectation of increasing their defence exports to Indonesia – considering that its military spending has substantially increased since 2005. Moreover, enjoying the longstanding ties with India and with a view to potential future challenges in the South-East Asia, their Navies enjoy high levels of co-operation and understanding, fostered through regular co-ordinated patrols and exercises, such as the multinational MILAN naval exercise.

Furthermore, the prospects for enhanced Australian trade collaborations with Indonesia appear promising. Indonesia is one of the top ten trading partners in Bilateral Sea Freight transactions with Australia, accounting for some AUD $12.1 billion/year. It is significant that the 2016 Australian Defence White paper notes the importance of preserving Indonesia’s sovereignty as well as helping the country maintain its democracy and further expand its economy.

Despite the regional issues, Indonesian policymakers believe in the creation of a “security community”, as the best approach to avoid conflicts in the South-East Asia. They rely upon the ASEAN regional framework of “comprehensive security” that may further strengthen its multilateral engagements. In that context, Indonesia’s Armed Forces have set an ambitious programme since 2009, in order to modernise their weapons systems by 2024 – the aforementioned MEF. The programme is divided into three five-year phases, with the first one completed in 2014.

Source: https://www.rsis.edu.sg

Notably, as a maritime nation, Indonesia needs to revive its maritime culture and deal with territorial disputes, something that implies the strengthening of its maritime defence capabilities. In this direction, as a result of the modernization of its military equipment through the MEF programme, the TNI plans to operate by 2024, amongst others, 180 jet fighters, 300 warships and 12 submarines.

To complement the above described efforts, the Indonesian government has announced its plans to establish an aerospace design centre within the Bandung Institute of Technology, for the development of aircraft and related technologies, for both commercial and military applications.