Actions and Words – Editorial
Editorial Board (The Jakarta Post)
Tue 23 November 2021
In the opinion of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, it is not always about taking military positions, playing one superpower against another or running the armed forces in the name of national security.
There’s still a lot to do in peacetime, whether it’s modernizing decades-old artillery, forging crucial people-to-people bonds with neighbors, or just getting involved in keeping the peace in your own backyard. .
For this last issue, Prabowo clearly made the effort to speak at the 17e regional security summit known as the Manama Dialogue, a carbon copy of the Shangri-La Dialogue held in a territory considered central to traditional US foreign policy: the Middle East.
At the event, the former army general defined Indonesia’s defense position as one which “has no territorial aspirations beyond the national borders of Indonesia” and which ” does not need “power projections” that stray too far from its area of influence. .
Having said that, he also underlined the nation’s commitment to maintain relations with all countries and to remain neutral in disputes as a reflection of the Non-Aligned Movement.
As part of Indonesia’s two-headed diplomatic machine, the Defense Ministry under Prabowo has played a low-key but effective role in maintaining ties with the country’s many partners while window shopping for more. new weapons and artillery systems.
Prabowo, for example, witnessed the signing of the contract for two Airbus A400M Atlas heavy lift aircraft, which can also provide in-flight refueling capabilities to jet fighters, with an option of four more aircraft at the Dubai Airshow. last week. In September, he witnessed the signing of the contract for two Arrowhead 140 frigates with British shipbuilder Babcock, undeterred by the UK’s alliance with the US to supply Australia with submarines nuclear powered.
This proactive attitude has helped the country out of its problem of maintaining an aging arsenal and tight budget deficits that prevent it from spending big. It has also helped prevent Indonesia from being pulled around in all directions by the tense superpower rivalry simmering in its own backyard.
Against this background, it should come as no surprise that Prabowo’s very first physical meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Bahrain over the weekend was full of subtleties, but apparently little else.
For the most part, their meeting could be seen as a follow-up to the Garuda Shield August 1–14, a joint U.S. Army-sponsored exercise in the Pacific and hosted by the Indonesian military in South Sumatra, East Kalimantan and northern Sulawesi.
The ministers also spoke about the education and training of officers, a spokesperson for Prabowo said, while a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense said they also spoke about the environment of regional security. The Indo-Pacific was the common thread of their meeting, although it takes place far from the open waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
It turns out that actions speak louder than words.
Faithful to its independent and active foreign policy, Indonesia does not want to be seen as too close an ally of a foreign power. Instead, he wants to play the role of everyone’s trusted friend – a nickname that’s much needed in a time of great geopolitical uncertainty that teases another likely big game.