If Indonesia hopes to be a top 10 global economy and a major regional player, it must be able to flex its military muscle when it has to. Strengthening our defenses must be a top priority.
Given the changing geopolitical landscape in the Asia Pacific, such a capability will be even more critical. India and China have been building their military strength for the past decade as their economic interests have also expanded.
Indonesia too must be able to project military power beyond its immediate shores to protect its strategic economic interests. For too long — since the 1997-98 financial crisis — the country has not been able to invest what it should on its military.
But as the economy has grown robustly in the past few years, the country now has the financial resources to do so. Thus the announcement by the US government that it has proposed selling air-to-surface missiles to equip Indonesia’s growing fleet of US-built F-16 fighter aircraft is welcomed.
The sale, valued at $25 million, would further strengthen US-Indonesia military ties at a time of growing tension in the South China Sea. The deal, if it goes through, would be beneficial to both nations as the United States needs to boost its security ties with friends and allies in a region stirred by China’s growing military clout and territorial assertiveness.
Forging closer military ties with the United States is strategically important given that the United States still provides a security umbrella for the region and Indonesia will require more military hardware to further upgrade its armed forces going forward.
As the Asia Pacific becomes a major theater for superpowers as economic gravity shifts from West to East, each nation in the region has to determine its own strategy in dealing with the unfolding landscape. As the largest country in Southeast Asia and one of the largest economies in Asia, Indonesia must be able to influence events in the region. Sufficient military might is an important component.