The United States and Indonesia are set to elevate their defense relationship and deepen maritime security cooperation during the upcoming visit of Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to Washington, D.C., sources told The Diplomat ahead of the visit.
Jakarta and Washington have already been cooperating in the defense realm, which has been furthered within the security working group of the U.S.-Indonesia comprehensive partnership signed in 2010 under Jokowi’s predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
But over the past year, officials from both sides have been stressing the need to elevate and expand defense cooperation (See: “US, Indonesia Looking to Boost Military Ties: Officials”). As Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi said during her address to the U.S.-Indonesia Society in Washington, D.C. last month, U.S.-Indonesia defense cooperation “should be more strategic and comprehensive” (See: “Indonesia Defends its Foreign Policy Record Under Jokowi”).
As part of this effort, sources close to the planning of the visit told The Diplomat that during Jokowi’s visit from October 25 to 28, the two countries will issue a joint statement comprehensively laying out the areas for future security and defense cooperation and ink a new memorandum of understanding focused on the maritime domain (See: “Exclusive: What to Expect in US-Indonesia Relations During Jokowi’s Visit“).
First, the two countries will issue a joint statement on security and defense cooperation in a bid to elevate the defense side of the relationship to a higher level. A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because planning for the visit was still being finalized, said that the statement would include six areas, covering issues such as maritime cooperation, military professionalization, joint development, transnational challenges, disaster relief and peacekeeping.
Despite the comprehensive focus of the statement, most observers will be looking to see what this means for new opportunities in co-production and co-development of defense technology and as well as transfer of technology, which Marsudi had indicated “would be a priority” in her USINDO speech.
Second, the United States and Indonesia will also ink a new memorandum of understanding on maritime security. This is in recognition not only of the regional challenges in the maritime domain which are significant for both countries – such as the South China Sea – but also Jokowi’s own maritime vision for Indonesia as a “global maritime fulcrum” between the Pacific and Indian Oceans (See: “The Trouble With Indonesia’s Foreign Policy Priorities Under Jokowi” and “No, Indonesia’s South China Sea Approach Has Not Changed”).
A highlight of the MoU will be efforts to enhance coast guard cooperation with Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency (Badan Keamanan Laut, BAKAMLA). As I have written elsewhere, BAKAMLA, a newly created organization under Jokowi which some have characterized as the equivalent of a coast guard, is central to resolving Indonesia’s maritime coordination problem (See: “Indonesia’s Maritime Ambition: Can Jokowi Realize It?”). As close observers of Indonesian security affairs know, the past few years has seen no less than 12 national agencies compete for authority and resources in a costly and ineffective way.
More generally, the MoU is expected to touch on several areas including maritime defense, maritime resource management and maritime infrastructure and maritime safety. This is in line with the five pillars Jokowi was outlined for his global maritime fulcrum vision, which include: rebuilding Indonesia’s maritime culture; maintaining and managing its maritime resources; developing maritime infrastructure and connectivity; strengthening maritime diplomacy; and boosting its maritime defense forces. By Prashanth Parameswaran for The Diplomat