Indonesia Defense and Security

Indonesia Defense and Security

The Indonesian armed forces are made up of nearly 400,000 units: the army is the largest branch, with more than 300,000 soldiers on active duty. Public defense spending is complemented by the financial participation of military companies and foundations. The police have long represented an important sector of the armed forces: the decision to make them autonomous took place between 1999 and 2000. Although the police number only about 250,000, they play a central role in the fight against militant extremists ; it is also widely used in the control of autonomist movements, such as that of West Papua. The repressive techniques adopted have been repeatedly criticized by organizations for the protection of human rights.

Throughout Indonesian history, the military has played a leading role in political and social affairs. A significant number of government officials have a military background and many seats in parliament have been filled by representatives of the military. The commanders of the various territorial detachments also played an influential role in local affairs. With the inauguration of the national parliament in October 2004, the army lost most of its prerogatives, while retaining significant influence. As Indonesia maintains peaceful relations with its neighbors, from a military point of view, the country’s most important mission has become to ensure internal security.¬†For Indonesia defense and foreign policy, please check

From the international point of view, after the independence of 1945, Indonesia adopted a position that sees it free from constraints but active in the international arena. It therefore sought to play a role at the regional level commensurate with its size and position, but avoided involvement in conflicts between the great powers. The foreign policy chosen by President Suharto’s New Order envisaged a distance from the anti-Western, and in particular anti-American, attitudes that had characterized the last period of Sukarno (1945-67). Even after Suharto’s departure in 1998, Indonesian presidents have broadly maintained a moderate attitude in foreign policy. Nevertheless,

A cornerstone of Indonesian foreign policy is participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which it was a founding member in 1967 with Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Indonesia was also one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement, of which it continues to be a leader and among which it has distinguished itself for its moderate positions.

As the largest Islamic country in the world, Indonesia is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). This also implies constant attention to the interests of Islamic solidarity in foreign policy, albeit maintaining a moderate position within the OIC.

In 2007 and 2008, Indonesia won a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. The United States maintains important economic, commercial and strategic interests in Indonesia, which remains one of the pillars of regional security in Asia, especially due to its position which places it guarding a number of international sea straits, most notably the Strait of Malacca. In addition to playing a role in the independence process in the 1940s, the United States has historically supported Indonesia’s role as an anti-Communist bulwark during the Cold War. The two countries not only pursue the common goal of maintaining stability in the region, but also of cooperating in the fight against terrorism. Recently, Indonesia has shown its willingness to increase its role in the region by developing its presence in international fora and reiterating its choice of non-alignment. In particular, it seeks to maintain good relations with both the United States and China, as demonstrated by its neutrality towards territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The country also participates in military missions UNIFIL in Lebanon, MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo and MINUSTAH in Haiti.

A forgotten crisis: the independence struggle of West Papua

When Indonesia gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949, West Papua (Irian Jaya) remained a Dutch colony. Amsterdam had refused to hand over the territory of Papua to Jakarta, given the absence of political-cultural ties between the island and the rest of the Indonesian archipelago. In theory, the Netherlands would lead the country until it was able to self-govern and become independent under the name of Western New Guinea. Sukarno’s Indonesia, a fundamental ally of the United States in the Vietnam War, managed to obtain the support of Washington in headquarters: in 1962, with the signing of the New York Agreement, the United Nations assumed transitional administrative control of the region. in preparation for the country’s handover to Indonesia. The New York Agreement also provided for a referendum to be held, with which the Papuans could express themselves in favor or against the annexation to Indonesia. The referendum, however, was organized in an opaque way: the possibility of voting for a small part of the population was limited and the few voters were in fact forced to opt for annexation. In 1963 West Papua was therefore formally annexed to Indonesia. In the same year the Movement for Free Papua (Opm, from the original Organisasi Papua Merdeka) was born, which fought the Indonesian occupation. Thus a conflict arose, which continues today, between the troops of the Indonesian army and the OPM rebels. Several human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the Indonesian government for repressive measures against the indigenous population. Particularly affected were the indigenous Amungme and Kamoro, residents of the plateau located in the central-southern part of the island, one of the richest regions in mineral resources.

The very consistency of the economic interests at stake contributes to averting the resolution of the question. Gas, timber, palm oil, but also gold and copper mines of which the Papuan territory is rich, are at the center of the interests of large mining companies, which sign joint-venture contracts with Indonesian companies. This brings significant income for the Indonesian government in terms of tax revenue and equity profit. Furthermore, the excavations that have become necessary in recent years following the exhaustion of the first mines inflict heavy environmental damage on the territory of the region.

The land grabbing issue

The land grabbing it consists in the expropriation of large plots of agricultural land by multinationals or foreign countries. This phenomenon appeared in all its relevance in the media in 2009, when Madagascar ceded half of its agricultural land to a Korean multinational for the cultivation of food for export to Seoul. However, this decision had very heavy repercussions on the Malagasy political establishment, so much so that the project was withdrawn. In Indonesia, the phenomenon has become increasingly widespread, due to the fact that the country is the world’s leading producer of palm oil (more than 20 million tons per year), widely used in the production of biofuels and cosmetics. Industrial demand for palm oil is believed to be the main cause of the destruction of large tracts of Indonesian tropical forest. Some local communities have been forced to move or have become an exploited and underpaid workforce. There are many examples of forced land expropriation; most of the episodes involve the police or the military. Human rights violations – intimidation and unlawful imprisonment – are on the agenda: in recent years at least 15 farmers have been killed during the protests. About 67% of the land devoted to palm oil production is controlled by five major companies: three foreign and two Indonesian. 80% of the palm oil produced in Indonesia is exported to Europe.

Indonesia Defense