Muhamad Haripin, Jakarta | Opinion | Sun, October 13 2013, 11:30 AM
The Indonesian Defense White Paper should be made available this year, replacing the last one published in 2008. Law No. 3/2002 on national defense says the white paper is a statement of comprehensive defense policy published by the Defense Ministry and distributed to the public, nationally and internationally, in order to generate mutual trust and eliminate conflict.
Ideally, the white paper is far from a mere presentation of defense stakeholders’ recognition on what is strategically important, challenging or even threatening for Indonesia. Instead, it serves the purpose of understanding the way they value Indonesia’s stance in the global context.
In formulating the white paper, we need to take into account two major events that will significantly shape Indonesia in the near future. First, a new government will be in power in 2014. Whoever elected to lead the country, the key question is whether military modernization as outlined in the Minimum Essential Forces policy will progress, or the new government will direct the process to a brand new path.
Second, how the post-election political configuration will affect civil-military relations. Although some consider it irrelevant, in fact with a long history of military profound intervention to the society and the unfinished security sector reform, the military is still regarded as an important (political) force in Indonesia. Indeed, some of presidential candidates have a military background.
In response to this issue, the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Moeldoko has expressed commitment in keeping the TNI from practical politics.
Right in this context, the civil society plays a central role in monitoring the workability of the commitment.
Furthermore, in late 2015, Indonesia and other member countries of Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) would enter a novel era of ASEAN Community built upon three pillars, i.e. political-security, economic and sociocultural communities.
Within this newly established regional arrangement, the Ministry of Defense, TNI and other related ministries have to work together to enhance the capacity of Indonesian defense diplomacy, both in a regional and a global scale, to ensure that Indonesia attains the best from the ASEAN Community.
To achieve it, one of the best ways is to conduct a sustainable and well-articulated political-strategic move to support ASEAN as a central point in managing territorial disputes and regional rivalries among great powers. By doing so, Indonesia will be able to increase its profile toward the regional rising power, though the lack of military capability and projection remain an issue.
During the so-called “Asian Century” (ADB 2011) or “American Century” (Friedman 2010), what Indonesia will encounter in the regional, as well as global, politics will be less predictable.
What has been stated in The 2008 Defense White Paper, therefore, needs changes.
Among other things, in the 2013 Paper we may also have to evaluate Indonesia’s bilateral and multilateral relations over the years. Defense cooperation is surely part of government policy features to improve national capability.
Through cooperation, Indonesia gains many benefits. Joint-exercise and joint production of weapon systems could be arranged in a constructive way and based on mutual benefit. On the other side, the Foreign Ministry may suggest that the notion of “dynamic equilibrium” is such a breakthrough approach for Indonesia to interact with the international community and to navigate safely in the midst of diverse interests of other states.
But, I argue that we must not forget that at the flip side of the coin, there lies competition and rivalries among states. In this context, history has told us that not just for one time hard power determined the end result. Thus, military modernization and the development of national defense industries are essential. It is also necessary that Indonesia think in a different way, in a sense that not all countries deserve the same tone — as stated in the 2008 White Paper.
Many countries have had a close, intense and strategic relationship with Indonesia over the years. And therefore, further cooperation would be beneficial for both parties. While several others, due to domestic or strategic consideration, seem to have problematic up-and-down ties with Indonesia.
After all, according to many states, Indonesia is crucial in terms of geopolitics and economic (market, raw materials). Even Australia, for example, is not hesitant to point out that, “Australia’s longstanding partnership with Indonesia remains our most important defense relationship in the region” (Australia Defense White Paper 2013).
Far from cliché and formality, the forthcoming Indonesia Defense White Paper should be a momentum to show the world where Indonesia stands and explain the main priority of Indonesia’s defense sector.
The writer is a researcher at Research Centre for Politics, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and author of Post-New Order security sector reform (2013).