AUKUS shows Indonesia needs to improve defense modernization: Commentary
JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post / Asia News Network): The recently formed alliance between Australia, UK and US called AUKUS means one thing for Indonesia: Its defense modernization plans need to be improved to better prepare for the worst-case scenario if peace and stability in the region are threatened.
The AUKUS Pact includes the agreement that the US and UK will help Australia develop nuclear-powered submarines, as well as improve their joint capabilities and interoperability.
Although China was not mentioned directly in the announcement, it is clear that AUKUS was formed to counter the Asian giant, whose military rise and territorial claims have become a source of regional security concerns in recent times. years.
China’s recent military surge represents the biggest expansion in maritime and aerospace power in decades. It developed its long-range missile force, increased its number of bomber planes, and modernized its navy into a blue water force capable of operating globally across blue oceans.
It also has territorial disputes with its neighbors, including its American allies and partners, on land and at sea. These reasons have led the United States to pursue strategies to counter China by gaining too much power and thus threatening itself. than its allies.
Prior to AUKUS, the United States also formed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) for the same purpose. Unsurprisingly, China responded by opposing the two US-led initiatives.
Experts predict that tensions between the two powers will continue to rise after the formation of AUKUS.
In response to the AUKUS announcement, Indonesia expressed concern that Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine program could worsen the arms race and the projection of power in the region.
Indonesia also called on all parties concerned to resolve their differences peacefully by advancing the dialogue. The statement suggests that Indonesia is still in denial of its position amid potential conflicts in the region.
Indonesia has long been a party to these tensions, especially over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Parts of the nine-dash line unilaterally claimed by China in the region straddle Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone north of Natuna Waters.
However, Indonesia remained a non-claimant state in disputes, presenting itself as an “honest broker”. In doing so, Indonesia hopes to keep its foreign policy principles free and active, as well as unaligned. He hopes to be seen as an impartial mediator in disputes between great powers, of which he does not consider himself a party.
Jakarta also wants potential conflicts resulting from disputes to be effectively avoided through diplomacy, as opposed to military force. However, experience suggests that Indonesia’s diplomacy regarding disputes has not been effective.
He submitted a note verbale to the United Nations opposing China’s claims in the South China Sea, citing a 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling. He summoned the Chinese ambassador to discuss of this question. He tried to get Asean to create unified action on disputes.
These have not borne fruit, as China has rejected the PCA decision and maintained its claims in the South China Sea, while ASEAN has never reached a consensus on this issue.
Recently, Natuna fishermen reported that they encountered six Chinese ships, including the Kunming-172 destroyer, on September 13. the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCOLS).
However, it should be noted that the Law of the Sea also prohibits foreign ships from harming the country or breaking any of its laws when passing through its waters.
Even though Indonesia still does not see China as a threat, the AUKUS announcement is expected to further increase tensions in the region – where Indonesia is caught in the sights of potential conflict.
Unfortunately, Indonesia is not prepared to defend itself when such conflicts arise. As much as his diplomatic efforts were unsuccessful and his membership in ASEAN was unsuccessful, his military strength is also unfortunately insufficient at the present time.
Indonesian Navy fighters consist of only four submarines, seven frigates, 24 corvettes and several small attack / patrol craft. Meanwhile, the Air Force‘s combat force consists of just 49 multi-role fighters and fighter jets, as well as several light attack and training aircraft.
Not only is this inventory not sufficient to defend the territory of Indonesia’s sea and air space, but it is also fraught with many problems.
Many weapon systems are aging, having been in service for more than three decades. Many have a low level of preparation. The inventory is very diverse, which complicates interoperability between weapon systems.
It also lacks command and control capabilities. To deal with these problems, Indonesia has pursued various defense modernization plans, including the Navy and Air Force. There have been several positive developments regarding its plans to purchase weapons.
Recently he obtained a frigate design license from the British company Babcock. However, some of the plans could be delayed by funding hurdles, including negotiations over Rafale fighter jets with French company Dassault.
In their recent newspaper article, Iis Gindarsah and Adhi Priamarizki discussed the stagnation in the modernization of the Indonesian Navy and Air Force, which stems from several reasons, such as inefficient bureaucracy, lack of commitment government, limited economic resources and different modernization priorities at the level of the military unit.
Only by addressing these issues and improving defense modernization plans will Indonesia be better prepared for potential conflicts between the US-led alliance and China in the region. We cannot depend only on diplomacy, but also on our military capabilities.
*** The author is Senior Lecturer in Security Studies at the Department of International Relations, Binus University, Jakarta. The opinions expressed are his own.