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Old 17th October 2012, 08:43 PM   #1
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Default Closer Defense Ties Between Indian and Indonesia a Win-Win Scenario

Closer Defense Ties Between Indian and Indonesia a Win-Win Scenario

Rajeev Sharma | October 17, 2012

India and Indonesia have been conducting trade for over two millennia. However, in modern times it took the countries until as recently as 2005 to truly rediscover each other and sign a strategic partnership deal on the 60th anniversary of their diplomatic ties.

This strategic partnership, with both countries having an eye on China, was raised to a new level on Tuesday when India and Indonesia held their first-ever defense dialogue and decided to significantly enhance their defense cooperation. The India-Indonesia defense dialogue mechanism at the highest level was agreed upon during the visit of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to India in January 2011.

The expansion of India-Indonesia defense ties is a win-win scenario for both. Indonesia stands to benefit from India’s expertise in the production of radar systems, other electronic equipment and artillery weaponry. Indonesia has allocated $1 billion for purchasing military weaponry and India would like to seize this opportunity. If India is to become a credible military power, it has to start exporting hardware. Indonesia can help India in this regard.

The first ministerial level biennial defense dialogue between the visiting Indian Defense Minister AK Antony and his Indonesian counterpart Purnomo Yusgiantoro, which lasted nearly two hours, delivered rather admirably on the expectation quotient. So much so that Antony declared his meeting with Yusgiantoro as a “turning point’ and an “excellent beginning.”

They not only exchanged views on a whole range of issues relating to regional and global security, bilateral exercises involving services, training, co-production of defense equipment and ammunitions and visits at high levels but also discussed in detail how to synergize their maritime operations in South China Sea.
After his meeting with Yusgiantoro in Jakarta, Antony was asked a question from reporters on the South China Sea. Antony said that 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. India supports the freedom of navigation and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law. These principles should be respected by all,” the Indian defense ministry’s chief spokesman Sitanshu Kar quoted Antony as saying.

In his engagements with his Indonesian interlocutors and the media, Antony also spoke at length about the power rivalries in the Indian Ocean Region. Antony said that although these are being conducted in local theaters, the impact is felt in the wider regional arena and globally. India has a stake in the maintenance of peace and stability in its immediate and extended neighborhood. This includes the entire Indian Ocean Region to India’s east and west.

It is a lesser known fact that Indonesia is India’s closest littoral neighbor. From the southernmost tip of the India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, Indonesia’s Sumatra province is just 80 nautical miles away as the crow flies. India has recently established a tri-services command in the Islands’ capital Port Blair to guard the approaches to the Malacca Strait, the 960-km narrow sea lane, wedged in between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, which happens to be one of the world’s busiest waterways with about 50,000 ships plying the route annually, carrying half of the world’s oil and one-third of the world’s trade.
It is vital for both India and Indonesia to keep the Malacca Strait free from any trouble, whether from terrorists or pirates or from political upheaval.

Antony gave an overview of India’s perspective on global and regional security. He said the threat of terrorism perpetuated by state and non-state actors affects all of us equally. Antony said some times, the acts of individual terrorists and terrorist organizations are also actively or otherwise encouraged by allowing such organizations safe refuge and other forms of support.

Both India and Indonesia have a vital stake in the evolution of balanced security and cooperation mechanisms through which they can build consensus and pursue dialogue. Both need to improve their partnership with all countries in the Indian Ocean Region on bilateral basis as well as through multilateral fora like the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). In this context, Antony’s following remark made in Jakarta on Tuesday assumes significance: “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,” Antony said.

The two defense ministers also exchanged views on the emerging scenario in Afghanistan and West Asia and noted with satisfaction that defense cooperation constitutes one of the principal focus areas of their diversified relationship. Encouraged by the success of the first Joint Exercise on Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare in India earlier this year, Antony proposed that the two countries should continue the joint exercises between the two armies on a mutually agreed frequency.

Similarly, the two navies are regularly conducting coordinated maritime patrols (CORPAT). He said we can examine the possibility of enhancing the engagement through conduct of joint naval exercises. He also offered to Indonesia establishment of a formal maritime domain information sharing arrangement between the two navies.

On the Air Force side, Antony said a high-level Indian Air Force team would send a team to finalize details of training and spares support package, once the Indonesian Air Force firms up its requirements. Antony was assisted by a high-level delegation including Indian Defense Secretary Shashikant Sharma, India’s ambassador to Indonesia, Shri Gurjit Singh, Chief of Integrated Staff Vice Adm. S.P.S. Cheema, the head of the Andaman & Nicobar Command, Lt. Gen. N.C. Marwah and the director general of the Ordnance Factory Board, SK Beri. Antony also invited Yusgiantoro to visit India for the next round of talks next year.

It is in the larger interest of both countries to forge closer defense ties. And China must be keeping a close watch on the growing India-Indonesia camaraderie.

Rajeev Sharma is a New Delhi-based journalist-author and strategic analyst. He can be reached at

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