What Causes the Transformation of Indonesia’s Defense Progress?

The current state of defense in Indonesia cannot be ignored. Despite the fact that it is still a developing country, Indonesia is undergoing a defense revolution. The world seemed to need to emphasize this.

According to the Lowy Institute Asia Power Index 2021 data, Indonesia is now considered to be an Asian medium power. Indonesia is rated ninth out of 26 nations for overall strength, with a score of 19.4 out of 100.

In terms of military capacity, Indonesia is placed 13th overall, with data on defense budget ranking 10th, armed forces ranking 11th, weapons and platforms ranking 13th, and Asian military posture and signature capabilities ranking 13th.

Meanwhile, in terms of military manpower, Indonesia is among the top 10 in Asia. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Indonesia will be ranked eighth in Asia in 2021, with 395.50 thousand military troops. China remains the leader in this regard, with a total of 2.03 million personnel.

Efforts to strengthen defense are currently ongoing. The upgrading of Indonesia’s defense equipment is aimed at 70% of the minimum needed troops by 2024. (MEF). MEF realization was enhanced since MEF realization in 2020 was only 62.3 percent of the State Budget. This occurred as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, which caused defense expenditures to be diverted to deal with the pandemic.

The establishment of reserve components of at least 3 thousand troops, which did not exist previously, has resulted in several advances in Indonesia’s defensive advancement. Then there was the Dassault Rafale fighter plane, an Italian frigate, the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, the scorpene submarine, and the Maung tactical vehicle.

Some analysts believe that this defensive development will pique the interest of the world community, particularly industrialized countries engaged in global politics.

The advancement of Indonesia’s defense capabilities has the potential to strengthen Indonesia’s negotiating leverage in the international arena. Furthermore, there are difficulties in relations between superpowers that might direct this.

Tensions between the United States, Russia, and China have put the globe in jeopardy. The idea of the “west” and “east” blocs that existed during the cold war appears to be resurfacing at this moment.

Because of the Russo-Ukrainian crisis, the United States had to dispute with Russia as the head of the Western bloc. On the other side, the US is at conflict with China over the Taiwan and South China Sea issues.

In the midst of these tense geopolitical circumstances, Indonesia has the capacity to defuse the conflicting superpowers. Indonesia’s military force may be employed as a peacemaker, and Indonesian officials can seize this opportunity to ensure global security.

Role Figure

The prominent figure of Prabowo Subianto, the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia, cannot be separated from the strengthening of Indonesia’s defense. Why is this so? There might be various explanations for this.

For starters, Prabowo has a high-ranking military background. Since graduation from the military academy in Magelang in 1974, his youth has been emphasized to serve in the military as a second lieutenant. For the past 24 years, his military career has consistently led to key posts such as Commander of the Army Strategic Reserve Command.

He went into conflict-prone countries like East Timor and accomplished a number of goals. One of his most notable accomplishments was saving a Garuda DC-9 Woyla passenger in Bangkok in 1981. This operation recovered 10-12 international researchers who had been kidnapped by the Free Papua Movement (OPM) insurgents as part of the Lotrentz 95 expedition.

His military expertise underpins his ability to manage and create defensive equipment. Prabowo realizes that the navy and air forces are critical to Indonesia’s defense, and he is working to bolster these two areas.

Second, Prabowo Subianto is the General Chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), which has great political negotiating power. Gerindra, which is now in third position in the 2019 general election, wields significant political power in shaping state policies. Prabowo has the political ability to order 78 members of his legislative council to adopt national policies based on his views about national interests. Defense and security in Indonesia are no exception.

The media frequently refers to Prabowo Subianto’s political group as the Kertanegara axis, a political axis with nationalist-patriotic leanings. The Kertanegara axis frequently intersected with the Cikeas axis of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the sixth President of the Republic of Indonesia, and the Bull axis of Megawati, the fifth President of the Republic of Indonesia, during its development.

Prabowo was previously known to the public as a presidential contender, including a rivalry with Joko Widodo, the current President of the Republic of Indonesia.

In reality, he is the “King Maker” figure who has won numerous well-known political competitors today, including Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or Ahok, the former Governor of DKI Jakarta, Anies Baswedan, the current Governor of DKI Jakarta, and Ridwan Kamil, who was previously Mayor of Bandung. Because to Prabowo Subianto’s support, all of them were able to attain political success.

Third, Prabowo possesses strong soft diplomacy skills. He conducted defense diplomacy in a nonpartisan, open, and beneficial manner, keeping in mind the current global political context.

Prabowo appears to regard all countries as friends who do not need to be separated from one another, particularly if they share common political aims or ties.

Furthermore, defense diplomacy entails not just the purchase of defense equipment, but also debates about international security, future collaboration, and efforts to capitalize on increasing national capabilities.

Prabowo had been to South Korea. In defense diplomacy, he agreed to buy 16 South Korean T-50 trainer planes while simultaneously discussing world security. Indonesia has even worked with South Korea on the development of the KF-15 Boromae fighter jet.

Simultaneously, Prabowo continues to visit Japan, a country with a history of confrontation with Korea. During his visit, he discussed the agreement on the long-term viability of military technology transfer cooperation for the production of defense equipment.

Despite the fact that the two nations have a strained relationship as a result of their shared history, Prabowo was able to use the two countries from opposing perspectives.

In terms of the strained relationship between the US and China, Prabowo respects both countries. He regarded the United States as a close ally and welcomed the superpower’s assistance for ASEAN. However, Prabowo maintains defense cooperation with China as well as cordial ties with it.

Despite the tensions between the two countries, Prabowo maintained neutrality toward both. As a result, Indonesia seems to be the contending countries’ international mediator. Prabowo has effectively executed the notion of a free and active foreign policy.

Indonesia’s defense is evolving and improving at a quick pace. This cannot be isolated from the work of the Minister of Defense, Prabowo Subianto, who expedited Indonesia’s defense, which was previously more focused on foreign threats. Thus, advancing Indonesia’s defense requires not just financial backing, but also a powerful figure.

Agil Kurniadi
Agil Kurniadi
Agil Kurniadi is the Executive Director of the historical research center and social sciences 'Terekam Jejak.' He holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in History from the University of Indonesia and writes about politics, economics, history, and socio-culture. Some of his articles have been published in national and international journals and conferences.