Indonesia: Pandora’s Box In The New Capital

Authors: Gufron Gozali and Rayhan Syahfa*

Despite all the critics and rejection by the people, Senayan finally made their call to passed the law for moving the capital city of Indonesia from Jakarta to East Kalimantan, Penajam Paser Utara region to be Exact. Recently, President Joko Widodo also has confirmed Nusantara to be its name. People do concerns about the economic side whether the government has sufficient funds to build the capital or would it be beneficial for this country. In the end, the question asked is pretty much the same “is it necessary?” or “is it a wise call to move the capital city to East Kalimantan?”.

Indonesia is located in a midst of hell, surrounded by conflicts and threats that may erupt in no time. In respect to our topic, IKN is located just nearly 400 km from the nearest point of the border between Indonesia and Malaysia that spans approximately 2000 km. Talk over the possibility of land military infiltration, IKN’s location is simply “un-strategical”, though it might be forest-surrounded or small cities/villages-surrounded, IKN could easily be attacked than Jakarta on this matter.

This discursive border is marked by some sort of small statue with a minimum quantity of guards and infrastructure, field research conducted has also proved that the condition of the marks is worrying. This is worsened by the fact that this area tends to be a scene where transnational crimes take place. Human trafficking for forced labor tends to happened in the border area and also bushfires that annually happened in Kalimantan also have to be considered as a threat. How is it possible to move the capital when the latent problem has not been resolved. The location of the IKN is also exposed because it is near the coast where mostly large ships pass by carrying cargoes of 40 million dollars per year.

The proximity between the IKN location and the border is somehow making espionage easily happen, they could swiftly penetrate from the border, sneak into the vast area of the forest in Kalimantan before they reach out the capital city due to minimum guards and infrastructure in the border. The espionage methods are rapidly developing and in a certain way, it could change the dynamic on how warfare will look like and how our defense and security system shall prevent it. One of the ways is using UUV or Underwater Unmanned Vehicles.

In late 2020, an Indonesian fisherman found a Chinese UUV in the Selayar Island of South Sulawesi. It has been reported that a similar UUV has also been found back in 2019 in Riau Islands. Though it is often used for research purposes, it does not rule out the possibility of being used for other purposes since it happened way far from the Chinese water territory. In fact, Selayar island is located in the middle of the country. If the UUV could penetrate so deep into Indonesian territory, IKN’s location that has closer proximity to the border could easily threaten.

Another concern is the ongoing tense in the South China Sea. Though it might seem that Indonesia does not really jump into it, the friction between the countries involved could destabilise the region. From the past few years, things escalated quickly due to massive activities from both the United States (US) and its allies and the Chinese. Both the US and Chinese often held military drills in the South China Sea which was believed to be a “show of arms” event. The US deployed its CSG or Carrier Strike Group that consists of deadly tech armaments such as F-35C, Cruisers, and Destroyers. One of the CSG was also in the Celebes Sea in early 2022, a place close to the designated IKN location. Not long before, the Chinese Carrier, The Shandong, also appeared to have had a realistic combat-oriented exercise in the South China Sea. Reports said that in late 2021, the Chinese Coast Guards was seen in the Natuna Utara Sea, Indonesia’s ZEE region that overlapped with the South China Sea. Though Indonesia filed a complaint to the Chinese government, it’s become a terrifying fact that our border is vulnerable to any interference. Moreover, with the Carriers and capabilities they have, it’s possible to deploy their highly-tech armaments anywhere anytime for some bad purposes; espionage or show of arms.

Such a great threat from China in the South China Sea should be able to make the government aware that they need to pay attention to the current state of maritime defence. The condition of the Indonesian Navy is not so good, they only have 113 patrol boats, 11 naval war bases, 13 frigates, 20 corvettes and 5 submarines. With a total area of ​​3.25 million km2 of Indonesian waters, each submarine has a duty to protect 650 thousand km2 of Indonesian waters and every frigate and corvette must guard every 98 thousand km2 of Indonesian waters. Furthermore, the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) which has the task of conducting patrols in Indonesia’s sovereign territory only has 10 ships.

On the other hand Indonesia’s defence budget is less than 1% of GDP, specifically, Indonesia only allocates 0.7-0.9% for the defence sector, with an economic growth ratio of 5%. Meanwhile, the world’s average defence budget is 2.2% and countries in Southeast Asia are 2-3%.Shall Indonesia has an adequate military budget, we do believe that the Indonesia military could exceed any expectations. From an article published by CSIS, Indonesia in 2021 will increase its defence budget by 14% with a total of 134.2 trillion rupiah. However, 55% of the defence budget, or around 72.6 trillion, is spent on technical needs in the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) institutions, such as paying soldiers’ salaries and management needs, and only 29% or the equivalent of 39 trillion is used for defence equipment expenditures.

As a defensive country, we do believe that Indonesia will not provoke anyone yet the consequence is obvious, Indonesia must increase regional control in the IKN area by continuing to develop its military assets in the region. The development of these assets must also be accompanied by increasing the quality and quantity of defense armaments for maximum defense and security. Apart from the military, all relevant agencies must also maximize their potentials, such as from the police and intelligence agencies. In the end, we are addressing our firm mind that it is not a deal of moving the capital we’re concerned about, yet highlighting factors and possibilities that could be threatening for the IKN itself. Let’s hope that in the year when IKN becomes official, our military, police, and intelligence capabilities will be able to overcome existing problems and prevent possibilities that could threaten the sovereignty of this republic.

*Muhammad Rayhan Faqih Syahfa, Research Assistant in Universitas Islam Indonesia

Gufron Gozali
Gufron Gozali
Gufron Gozali is a junior research assistant from the Islamic University of Indonesia, whose research focuses on the United States and the Middle East.