China’s Defence Minister, General Liang Guanglie, met the Indonesian ambassador to China, Imron Cotan, in Beijing on 16 January 2012, to discuss increasing military co-operation between the two countries.
The meeting occurred on the same day Indonesian Defence Minister, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, declared that, after ten years of limited military spending, Indonesia was now entering an intensive period of military expansion. ‘Our economy is very strong,’ Mr Yusgiantoro said as he announced the new defence budget of 150 trillion rupiah ($16.3 billion), after the government revised the budget in December 2011, giving it a 53 per cent year-on-year increase.
The new budget will bring Indonesian defence spending above one per cent of Gross Domestic Product. With Indonesia sitting astride the chokepoints between the Indian and the western Pacific Oceans, it is an increase that has implications for South-East Asia. It will see Indonesia overtake Singapore as the region’s biggest military spender, leaving behind countries such as Malaysia and Thailand.
Indonesia has wasted no time in drafting a wish-list that includes tanks, multiple rocket systems, a guided missile destroyer, three submarines, and retrofits for ex-United States’ F-16s and ex-Australian C-130 transport aircraft.
Indonesia’s ambitions have attracted renewed Chinese interest in military co-operation between the two countries, a move which has been welcomed by Indonesia. Mr Cotan said increased strategic communication with China would improve bilateral ties and jointly maintain peace and stability in the region.
According to Mr Cotan, Indonesia regards working with China as an opportunity, rather than a challenge. Aside from a joint Sino-Indonesian missile production programme, which commenced in early 2011, China is, however, yet to find a significant role in Indonesia’s rise as a regional power.
Future Directions International Research Assistant
Indian Ocean Research Programme