Region’s forces can play wider role in Indonesia
As long as it does not result in a Nato-type pact or direct intervention. Logistical help is as far as it should go for now, officials say
Indonesian officials said that Singapore’s proposal for the region’s armed forces to take on a wider role was “viable” as long as it did not lead to a Nato-type alliance or direct military intervention.
Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono told The Straits Times that the existing Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and joint-border committees among several countries were sufficient at this stage to handle regional difficulties.
He commented that collective intervention was not an option – unless a member-country requested it.
Dr Juwono said that it was natural for Asean states to be concerned with political instability in the sprawling archipelago given that it hovered the region with its sheer geographical size and scale.
Violence and religious riots in Indonesia were bad news for neighbouring countries.
He said Defence Minister Tony Tan’s proposal could be applied to Indonesia now, especially in the troubled Maluku province, if Asean states lent logistical support to the Indonesian security forces to bring stability to an area wrought by bloody violence for more than a year.
But that is as far as it should go, he stressed.
“Regional partners can help Indonesia build democracy and stability in the country by backing up our armed forces with military equipment, food and medical supplies,” he said.
“There should not be any active involvement because the national government can still manage at this stage.”But there could be active involvement if there is total breakdown of law and order in Indonesia and we declare a state of national emergency.”
A senior Indonesian military source said that, given the many cross-border security problems which were facing Asian countries, it made “good sense” for them to work collectively to stem problems.
“It is very hard to think of maintaining security within one’s borders these days given the influence of external elements in (the) domestic scene,” he told The Straits Times.
He was referring in particular to the recent bombing incident in Jakarta at the Philippine ambassador’s residence. The source said that preliminary investigations by his officers revealed the involvement of Muslim extremists from the Philippine rebel Abu Sayyaf group in the bomb blast.
That made it imperative for Jakarta to work with Manila to get to the bottom of things.
He also disclosed that in dealing with the Aceh issue, the government had to work with Malaysia.
This was because rebels residing in Malaysia have an influence on problems in the restive province.
But he cautioned against establishing a military pact, modelled along the Nato alliance, for example.
This was because there were prevailing differences among Asean member-states on some issues – which he did not go further to identify.
There was also a possibility that a move to set up a military pact could fuel suspicion among external powers like the United States, China and Australia.
“Let’s have greater military cooperation but a formal pact is a no-go because it means creating enemies,” he said.
In Indonesia’s case, it was too preoccupied with pressing domestic problems to concentrate on an alliance among South-east Asian countries.
“It is very difficult for Indonesia to be committed given the crisis it is facing at home,” the source said.
Moreover, he added, Indonesia and the other Asean countries would not welcome direct military intervention to resolve internal problems.