India and Indonesia Defence Relations: Expanding Contours
The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony visited Indonesia from 15-17 October to take part in the first Ministerial level biennial defence dialogue between the two countries. The defence dialogue mechanism at the highest level was agreed upon during the visit of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to India in January 2012. As per report by the Press Information Bureau, India and Indonesia decided to significantly enhance their defence cooperation with the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony declaring his meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Mr Purnomo Yusgiantoro as a ‘turning point’ and an ‘excellent beginning’. Issues discussed are said to have included regional and global security, bilateral exercises involving Services, training, co-production of defence equipment and ammunitions.
Terrorism seemed to have received a high priority as the Indian Defence Minister highlighted the nature of trans-national terrorism. “It is seen that there are countries from where terrorists are free to launch their operations against other countries. This cannot be tolerated. The world is paying a heavy price for such mindless policies. No country should allow its territory to be used for any form of terrorism, directed against any other country or its people”, Shri Antony said.
Mr Antony also talked about power rivalries in the Indian Ocean Region and highlighted that the impact was felt in the wider regional arena and also, globally. “We have a vital stake in the evolution of balance security and cooperation mechanisms through which we can build consensus and pursue dialogue. We seek to improve our partnership with all countries in the Indian Ocean Region on bilateral basis as well as through multilateral for a like IONS, IOR-ARC etc”, he said. These comments are significant as India has been normally remaining clear of comments at the government and ministerial level of regional issues openly.
On South China Sea, Mr Antony is reported that have said that maintenance of peace and security in the region is of vital interest to the international community. ‘Our view is that all countries should exercise restraint and resolve the issue through dialogues according to principles of international law,” he said. India supports the freedom of navigation and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law.
India and Indonesia held the first Joint Exercise on Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare and the proposal is for continued engagement between the two armies on a mutually agreed frequency. The two navies are regularly conducting coordinated maritime patrols (CORPAT) which may be expanded to conduct of joint naval exercises. He also offered to Indonesia establishment of a formal maritime domain information sharing arrangement between the two navies. This is significant given that the countries are separated by a maritime boundary of just about 80 nautical miles. On the Air Force side, Shri Antony said a high level Indian Air Force team would send a team to finalise details of training and spares support package, once the Indonesian Air Force firms up its requirements. This is likely to be in the form of training support for SU 30 fighters as per a report in the Indian Express.
The delegation members included in particular C-in-C Andaman & Nicobar Command Lt Gen NC Marwah and DG Ordnance Factory Board Shri SK Beri highlight the focus of the visit. Andaman and Nicobar Command is India’s first joint command and is across the common maritime boundary with Indonesia. The presence of the Ordnance Factory Board chief with the Minister of Defence delegation to Indonesia would also indicate some interests in cooperation in defence supplies and production thereby enhancing the export potential of Indian industry. As per a report by the Defense News, “The sale of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile to Indonesia was also discussed.” This could not be independently verified.
India’s defence relations in the developing World in the post colonial period in the 1960’s and beyond have remained strong. There is ample scope for expansion and recent engagements between the Defence Ministers and establishment of a strategic dialogue process between India and Indonesia should be a good indicator of the way forward. At the same time Indonesia is important for India’s energy and resources security having abundance of the same, thus a multi faceted relationship can be developed over a period thereby adding to the present momentum.