Besides BrahMos Missile, Is Indonesia Looking For Joint Defense Production With India Amid Rising Chinese Aggression?

Indonesia may be looking to acquire Indian defense technologies including BrahMos missile, to strengthen its security architecture and push for joint production, in the face of a growing Chinese threat. 

The Economic Times reported that Indonesia is exploring collaborating on the production of military vehicles and water cannons while earlier reports have suggested that the country could be a potential buyer of Indo-Rusian BrahMos Missiles

The expansion of the defense partnership and joint defense production were on the agenda during a meeting between India’s deputy national security adviser Pankaj Saran and Indonesian defense minister Prabawo Subianto in Jakarta last week.

The meeting also included discussions on counter-terrorism and deradicalization. Following the death of India’s Chief of Defense of staff General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash last week, Subianto paid a visit to the Indian Embassy in Jakarta to sign the condolence book.

Indonesia’s Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko during a discussion with India’s Deputy NSA Pankaj Saran.

Presidential chief of staff H. Moeldoko said during his meeting with Saran on December 8 that Indonesia and India had a number of mutual interests, notably in the defense sector.

He went on to say that both countries have the same interests when it comes to combating radicalism and extremism. As a result, both nations will be able to work together to improve their defense ties. 

Jakarta and New Delhi are likely to focus on technology transfer and the development of local manufacturing businesses in the defense sector. Despite the fact that Indonesia does not have a claim to the South China Sea, Jakarta is apprehensive of Beijing’s escalating ambitions in the region.

India-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation

China claims Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone to the north of the Natuna Islands as “traditional fishing grounds”, making it a persistent source of intrusion into Indonesian waters. The waters surrounding the Natuna Islands have oil and gas deposits, besides housing new fishing areas.

Indonesia, on the other hand, has rejected China’s claim and has refused to negotiate on the issue. Given the importance of the region, the recent discussion also includes the potential maritime cooperation between Jakarta and New Delhi.

Indian firms are also planning to build ports in Indonesia, ET reported. In 2019, India began construction of a deep-sea port in Indonesia’s Sabang Island, located almost 175 km southeast of India’s Andaman and Nicobar chain of Islands.

Credit: National Maritime Foundation

This marks India’s first attempt to gain a strategic entry into Southeast Asia, despite China’s spate of connectivity ambitions for the ASEAN under the Belt and Road Initiative.

India has already built the Sittwe deepwater seaport in the Bay of Bengal in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, as part of the Kaladan multi-modal connectivity project

In recent years, India and Indonesia have increased their defense cooperation; New Delhi sees Jakarta as a key partner in its ‘Act East’ policy aimed at expanding connectivity and strategic ties with Southeast Asia to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

BrahMos fired from INS Chennai during TROPEX 2017 – Wikipedia Commons

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Indonesia in May 2018, the two countries agreed on a “Shared Vision of Maritime Cooperation in the Indo Pacific,” which calls for expanding commercial and people-to-people ties.

Indonesia: A Potential Buyer For BrahMos?

For the past few years, the Indian government is considering selling the ship-launched variant of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile to Indonesia as a ship-launched variant.

In 2018, a delegation from the BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between New Delhi and Moscow, visited an Indonesian shipyard in Surabaya to “evaluate the fitting of the missile on Indonesian warships”, Hindustan Times claimed

India and Indonesia are yet to negotiate a final agreement on the potential sale of the BrahMos, considered the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile.

BrahMos – Wikipedia

The Indonesian Navy already has the Yakhont export variant of the Soviet-era P-800 Oniks (3M55) supersonic cruise missile. The BrahMos is based on the Yakhont, which was a ramjet-based version of the Soviet anti-ship missile P-80 Zubr.

Russia recently took part in the first joint naval exercise with ASEAN countries on the territory of the Belawan naval base in Indonesia, demonstrating Russia’s growing military cooperation with ASEAN countries. 

Jakarta is the second potential Southeast Asian customer for the BrahMos missiles. Vietnam and India have also been in negotiations over a potential deal on the BrahMos missile for a long time.  

The First Indonesia-India Security Dialogue (IISD-1) was held in New Delhi in 2018. According to ET, India National Security Adviser Ajit Kumar Doval hopes to hold the second security dialogue in near future.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Indonesian Defense minister Subianto traveled to India last year to hold a meeting with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh. The possibility of exporting BrahMos cruise missiles to Indonesia, and a mechanism to strengthen maritime security cooperation were discussed extensively during the meeting.