This will be a big week for Indonesian naval diplomacy as Jakarta will host a key international naval symposium along with a fleet review and multilateral exercise from April 12 to 16.
As I noted in a previous piece, Indonesia will host the second iteration of its Multilateral Naval Exercise Komodo (MNEK) (See: “China Joins Indonesia Naval Exercise After South China Sea Spat”). This year’s MNEK will be additionally significant because it will be held in conjunction with the 15th Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) – a key biennial dialogue between Pacific nations to discuss naval issues – and an International Fleet Review.
In his welcome message to MNEK 2016, Indonesia’s navy chief Ade Supandi said that these activities were part of Jakarta’s efforts to realize President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s vision of the country as a “global maritime fulcrum” (poros maritim dunia, PMD) between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
“[I]t is one of the efforts of the Indonesian Navy to realize Indonesia to become a Global Maritime Axis,” he said.
The theme for this year’s Exercise Komodo, which will be held in Padang and the Mentawai Islands in West Sumatra, is “Readiness and Cooperation for Peace,” and interactions will focus on maritime peacekeeping. Indonesian officials have said previously that Jakarta would send 28 ships and 4,000 naval personnel for the exercise, which will also feature 22 participating foreign ships.
MNEK will be officially opened by Jokowi. Various activities will be held including a medical civic action project, maritime peacekeeping operations, as well as a range of cultural activities like a culinary festival and traditional dance.
The WPNS, which is held every two years, is a series of meetings of Pacific nations to discuss naval issues. The last WPNS in 2014 produced the Combined Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) – a series of protocols for the safety of naval vessels – which has grabbed headlined recently as a number of countries have suggested it as a means to defuse tensions in the South China Sea (See: “Singapore Wants to Defuse South China Sea Tensions with Naval Protocol”). There have also been conversations around expanding CUES to include other maritime agencies, including coast guards (See: “Malaysia Wants Expanded Naval Protocol Amid South China Sea Disputes”).
Indonesia will also be hosting an International Fleet Review, with a maritime exhibition scheduled to kick off on the second day along with the opening of the WPNS.