Indonesia security links and other interesting stuff

Near the left shoulder of the soldier at right is a small green plastic box. Suspended in front of the soldier’s green face mask is a small microphone on a flexible arm. Credit C. J. Chivers/The New York Times

It’s been a long time since the last post but I’m still blogging! For today, I’ve rounded up a few links of interest to Security Scholar readers.

First, this week I wrote about what a Jokowi presidency in Indonesia might mean for the country’s strategic outlook and defence relations with Australia. It’s not something many have touched on yet, and I’m keen to discuss this further (comments welcome). My bottom line is that there won’t likely be much change as Jokowi will inherit much of the strategic environment and many of the defence policies of his predecessor. We’ll have to see who his foreign, defence and coordinating ministers will be to get a better sense of how Indonesia’s current policies will evolve. In terms of Indonesia’s military modernisation:

TNI’s modernisation program aims to develop a ‘Minimum Essential Force’ (MEF) by 2024 which entails major upgrades of naval, land and air capabilities as well as the development of a local defence industry. While many of those developments were driven by SBY, some have made their way into legislation, which a new president might find hard to alter. Indonesia also has a number of capability development projects and acquisition deals on the go with partner countries. Defence officials recently announced that the first batch of F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets as part of a US grant are due to arrive in country in October.

Second, I’m intrigued by Robert Farley’s new book in which he makes case for abolishing the US Air Force (whoa!). To get up to speed with his thinking (and because it’s a rainy day in Canberra), I’ll be reading this Diplomat piece ‘Air Forces and Asia: interview with Robert Farley’ published today and bookmarking this debate between Farley and Adam Lowther of the Air Force Research Institute and The National Interest.

Lastly, the intersection between social media and the military is still an interest of mine. Here’s a NYTimes piece by CJ Chivers which is a case in point on what you can learn about Russian military equipment from open sources like social media. Chivers and others walked around Crimea taking pictures of Russian forces, showing the extent of their refit. He explains:

Not only was [using an iPhone to take pics] unobtrusive, but when a phone signal was available I could swiftly email photographs to an inbox, an easy safeguard against Russian troops or the armed men who worked with them who stopped journalists and demanded that images be deleted, a common occurrence on the peninsula in recent weeks. The images could then be posted on Instagram, creating a public record for sources to help analyze.

Image source: Instagram account of cjchivers.

Tuesday’s Indonesia defence and military links: ‘not a good day’ edition

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).

There are also larger questions about Indonesia’s strategic circumstances. On The Strategist, Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto looks at why Indonesia’s non-alignment policy isn’t tenable in the long-term. As he sees it, Indonesia is more likely to side with the United States than China, because:

This is facilitated by the democratic values that the US upholds and Indonesia shares, which allow administrations to change from one extreme to another (for better or worse). In contrast, it’s unlikely that a leadership change in China could bring about a similar change of mood in Indonesia.

Also, another ASPI-related link, my colleague Ben Schreer published a paper on Indonesia’s military modernisation.

On a more whimsical note, last Friday President SBY was made an honorary member of Indonesia’s elite police, BRIMOB (pictured above). In his acceptance speech, he praised the professionalism of their corps as well as their service as part of a peacekeeping force in Darfur, Sudan.

In other defence-related news, four female US Marines are about to graduate from enlisted infantry training this week.

Here’s a more positive angle over at Defense One on Chinese military’s efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the Philippines:

China is learning what U.S. military leaders have known for some time, which is that disaster relief and humanitarian aid are among of the most effective tools in the national security toolbox. It’s also central to the Pentagon’s post-war rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

Lastly, the 2014 Thawley Scholarship in International Security is a great opportunity for emerging Australian security wonks to undertake research at both the Lowy Institute in Sydney and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Applications are now open and close Wednesday, 5 December.

Image source: President of Republic of Indonesia.

A wrap-up of Indonesia and allegations of Australian spying

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.

Regional reporting has since been dominated by the strident reactions of Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa including the comment ‘it’s not cricket’. Last Friday, he sought an explanation from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Perth while Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty, was called into the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to ‘please explain’.

Why is Indonesia so outraged? What does this mean for the bilateral relationship? If you’ve missed what’s happened, here’s a wrap-up of the major developments and salient commentary:

In addition to criticisms issued last week, Natalegawa threatened yesterday to reconsider intelligence sharing on issues like counterterrorism and people smuggling.

But as I told ABC News 24′s Joe O’Brien yesterday, this seems unlikely: Indonesia will only be hurting itself to limit cooperation on issues of mutual interest to both Jakarta and Canberra.

In retaliation for the spying allegations, hacktivist group, Anonymous Indonesia, launched attacks on approximately 200 Australian websites on 4 November. No Australian government websites were affected.

The group was reported to be motivated by patriotism. Murdoch University’s Professor David Hill has been quick to point out that it’s unlikely the group is affiliated with the government in Jakarta.

In explaining Indonesia’s severe reaction, several Indonesia watchers have noted the domestic dimension to Natalegawa’s posturing. Monash’s Professor Greg Barton remarked that Indonesia, particularly Natalegawa, had to ‘go through the motions’ given constraints in the Indonesian legislature and it was a ‘predictable drama’.

Yesterday, ANU’s Professor Michael Wesley was quoted saying this should come as no surprise as all countries spy on each other. In fact, Indonesia is so aware of the practice, they send Christmas messages to the main listening stations, noted Professor Des Ball.

In terms of the overall bilateral relationship, the damage is likely to be minimal, according to Professor Mark Beeson. Writing on The Conversation, he said ‘Both countries have powerful reasons to improve bilateral ties and there is currently much goodwill on both sides.’

Image source: The Australian.

Indonesia defence news and military links


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.

For another perspective on the bilateral relationship with the US and Indonesia, CSIS has a new-ish report that includes a chapter on security cooperation. Too busy to read a report? Here’s some CSIS audio-video material that overviews key aspects of the US–Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership.

Zachary Keck over at The Diplomat looks at why Indonesia is courting North Korea. Apart from economic imperatives, Zach notes that there’s been long-standing public sentiment that’s favourable to the regime.

Lastly, ICYMI, Austalia has a new Indonesian Defence Attaché. Pictured above are outgoing Attaché Air First Marshal Benedictus Widjanarko (L) and incoming Air First Marshal Wieko Syofyan (R) at the handover ceremony officiated by Indonesian Ambassador HE Nadjib Riphat Keseoma.

Image source: IKAHAN.

Wednesday’s Indonesia defence and military links: Natuna Islands edition

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.

If you haven’t read the post yet, check it out. Scott and Ristian raise some questions about how Indonesia sees the strategic landscape. Despite misgivings about the US pivot and what this means for ASEAN (read: Indonesian) centrality in regional security affairs, it’s becoming harder for Indonesia to deny China’s behaviour in the South China Sea isn’t a problem for it anyway.

Rewind back to June this year when Indonesia announced it would host the Komodo multilateral joint exercise on disaster relief near the Natuna Islands in 2014. Sea Combat Task Force chief of the Indonesian Navy Western Fleet Commodore Amrullah Octavian said the following:

“The exercise will focus on naval capabilities in disaster relief, but we will also pay attention to the aggressive stance of the Chinese government by entering the Natuna area,” said Amarullah.

“We want to explain that our foreign police stipulates that Natuna is part of Indonesia.”

He added there was a political agenda in the multilateral joint exercise that was to show to participating countries that Natuna was part of Indonesia.

“Currently there has been no claim from China over the Natuna area but we do not want the Sipadan-Ligitan incident to happen again,” said Amarullah.

With a white paper due out in 2014, I’ll be keen to see how diplomatically Indonesia frames its strategic outlook. Welcome your thoughts!

Image source: Alan Ariansya.

Monday’s Indonesia defence and military links

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:

Indonesia defence news and links

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.

Indonesia defence news and links

Picture 20

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.”

My senior colleague Rod Lyon responded to Daniel today: “Perhaps so, but I don’t think we should assume that the future of our bilateral strategic cooperation turns solely upon Indonesia becoming western. Rather, it turns upon both countries thinking of themselves as Southeast Asian.”

Speaking of Australia-Indonesia defence relations, here’s an IKAHAN article (in Indonesian) on the recent joint exercise Wirra Jaya AUSINDO 2013. Held in September in Sentul, the exercise brought together soldiers from Mechanised Infantry Battalion 202/Tajimalela and 5RAR to work with combat vehicle and shooting skills, amongst others.

There are more and more instances of TNI’s involvement in non-military security issues. Yesterday, The Jakarta Post reported that the Siliwangi Military Command will now assist the West Java provincial administration in combating human trafficking.

Lastly, TNI scholar Bob Lowry has some book reviews on over at Inside Indonesia, including one on Djaja Suparman’s memoirs on being a military officer during reformasi. Bob also reviews a book on the first graduates of Indonesia’s Armed Forces Military Academy.

Image source: IKAHAN.

Indonesia and ‘strategic trust': no-one knows what it means, but it’s provocative


Here’s my latest post on The Strategist, and kudos to the executive editor for letting me keep the phrase ‘dropping the mic’. 

One of the main features of the Indonesian President’s speech to last week’s Jakarta International Defense Dialogue was the concept of ‘strategic trust’. Admitting this was difficult to define, he referred to it as ‘an evolving sense of mutual confidence between nations – particularly between government and militaries’ that enables parties to work together more effectively and, more importantly, peacefully.

President SBY offered two examples from Indonesia’s own history where strategic trust has been the glue in otherwise shattered relationships: between Indonesia and East Timor (a poignant reference given East Timor’s PM Xanana Gusmão was sitting in the audience), and between the Indonesian government and GAM in Aceh. His message is that it’s something that can bring bitter enemies together very gradually over time, ‘brick by brick’, and it has to reach from top leadership to the bottom rung.

It’s not a particularly radical concept, and it has been bounced around before. But what President SBY has put in words is, for instance, what Australia is seeking to build with regional partners. If we were asking ourselves, ‘what does it take to be strategic partners with Indonesia?’, SBY has got an easy answer: ‘strategic trust’, as it’s understood in Jakarta. And that’s the beauty of abstraction: you’re off the hook proving it in quantitative terms but you certainly can say you’re working towards it.

The President gets further mileage from a term ‘strategic trust’ because it’s entirely consistent with the back catalogue of Indonesia’s regional and international proclamations. Strategic trust is an extension of Indonesia’s foreign policy of ‘dynamic equilibrium’ and its diplomatic approach of having ‘a million friends and zero enemies’. It continues to affirm Indonesia’s desire to be seen as a balancer within the region, not only between global and emerging powers, but also between Asia–Pacific partners. It comes as no surprise that the President would cite opportunities for strategic trust-building as areas where Indonesia has been active diplomatically: in Myanmar’s democratic transition and the South China Sea Code of Conduct.

The speech might not be ground-breaking but it’s clever for slipping a diplomatic buzzword into a forum like JIDD. There’s no doubt ‘strategic trust’ was whispered around the JIDD stalls throughout the day and after. Media coverage of the event has played up SBY’s speech like he was ‘dropping the mic’ on strategic thinking. But at the end of the day, ‘strategic trust’ is a term that, if incorporated into our everyday diplomatic parlance and practice with Indonesia, wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Image source: President of the Republic of Indonesia

Our new partners at CIMSEC

We’re really pleased to announce a new partnership with the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). The Center is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank based in the US. It brings together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain.

This partnership allows both our organisations to foster discussion and interaction between scholars, military officers and the general public in both our countries on areas of mutual security interest.

We encourage you to visit their excellent blog NextWar which will, from time to time, feature cross posts from Security Scholar and other partner blogs.

Image courtesy of Flickr user DVIDSHUB.