Indonesia and Saudi Arabia Sign Defense Cooperation Agreement
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia Sign Defense Cooperation Agreement


On Thursday, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia signed a defense cooperation agreement (DCA) – the first of its kind – between the two of them. The agreement was signed by Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan Abdulaziz Al Saud and Indonesian Lt. Gen. (ret.) Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin. The DCA covers training, education, counter-terrorism, and defense industry cooperation.

The agreement is significant for Indonesia in a few ways. It is the first agreement of its sort that Indonesia has signed with a Middle Eastern country and the first between it and Saudi Arabia – the two countries have had diplomatic relations since 1950. Lt. Gen. Sjafrie told the Jakarta Post  that “This is the first time a Saudi deputy defense minister has visited Indonesia.”

The cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia is underscored by both nations’ common Islamic identities, although this wasn’t a driving factor in the signing of the DCA. In fact, both Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, in agreeing to cooperate on counterterrorism, noted that terrorism should not be linked to any ideology or religion, in particular Islam. Indonesia’s interlocutor adds that “No religion in the world teaches violence.”

The Indonesia Defense Ministry said in a press release that terrorist incidents in recent years have cast a poor light on Islam and that Saudi Arabia is one of the countries most damaged by terrorism. Indonesia has also suffered terrorist attacks conducted by Islamist groups.

An Indonesia-Saudi Arabia joint exercise on counterterrorism will follow from the DCA. According to Sjafrie, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia “have agreed to fight terrorism by holding joint exercises [that involve] members of both countries’ special forces.”

Indonesia’s defense industry could also win lucrative Saudi contracts in the future. Saudi Arabia has put in a request for detailed technical specifications of Indonesian defense equipment and will match Indonesian offerings to its requirements. According to Sjafrie, “The assessment is at the observation phase. Today’s visit was an introduction to the Indonesian defense industry’s capability.” It appears likely that Saudi Arabia will ultimately purchase indigenous Indonesian defense hardware in the future.

For Saudi Arabia, the DCA with Indonesia comes on the heels of a similar deal with Pakistan – both deals highlight the Kingdom’s interest in expanding relations with Islamic nations outside its immediate Middle Eastern neighborhood. The deal with Pakistan came two days prior to the Indonesian deal, and as The Diplomat reported, may involve the purchase of joint China-Pakistan developed JF-17 fighter jets.

January 27, 2014 at 02:25

I guess those are INSAS rifles made in India, shown in the pic. :)

January 25, 2014 at 14:52

Interesting. I would assume Saudi Arabia is trying to expand its influence throughout the Muslim world to counter Iran’s outreach. You have to figure that Saudi Arabia has the cash while Indonesia has the manpower. An alliance between the two makes sense, especially since both of them are looking to expand their standing on the world stage.

The more paranoid part of me doesn’t like this development. Saudi Arabia is a prime sponsor of terrorism and Indonesia has a very aggressive past. The two linking up conjures up some very uncomfortable images.

On the other hand, the more rational part of me says that this is a very logical and rational extension of both their policy priorities. For all of their “largest” qualities – Saudi Arabia having the largest proven oil reserves in OPEC and Indonesia being the largest Muslim nation on Earth – both of them have a remarkably small footprint on the world stage. By combining their strengths, they stand a very good chance of diminishing their weaknesses.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. By reaching out beyond their immediate neighborhoods, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia stand a very good chance of not only countering Iran’s regional power structure, but also forming a true Third Way on the world stage.

It is a partnership that offers both promise and peril to the parties involved as well as the world. Let us hope it works out to the benefit of all and despite my misgivings, I think it will.

January 25, 2014 at 11:57

My prediction is by 2013 end Saudi Arabia will be the largest defence spender after the 3 superpowers (USA, Russia and China). These military ties are very significant. Pakistan and Indonesia have very strong militaries too. Egypt, Malaysia, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh would be next.

Kimbo Y. Laurel
January 25, 2014 at 22:33

This will also help Indonesia to make other countries to think twice before Indonesia to be invaded.

January 26, 2014 at 12:41

Yes, we do hope Indonesia will take up the challenge to forewarn self-appointed deputy sheriff Australia that it’s time the latter should behave itself if it’s wanted to be part of Asia community.

January 26, 2014 at 18:56

Absolutely. No country dares to mess with the Saudis.

Defence agreements surpassing geographical proximity seems to be the order of the day.

e.g. Saudi-Pakistan, Saudi-Indonesia, China-Ukraine, India-Japan, etc.

Only USA could do this a decade ago. Not any more

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