During a recent visit to Poland, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan made headlines when he talked up the prospects for defense ties between Jakarta and Warsaw. His comments reflect continuing efforts by the two countries to explore additional opportunities for military cooperation.
Indonesia and Poland do have an existing defense relationship, though progress has tended to be much slower than the headlines suggest. During the past two decades, Poland had sold Indonesia a number of military platforms that have been made in Poland and delivered to the Southeast Asian state, including aircraft and air-defense systems.
Both sides have also previously explored further collaboration. For instance, in September 2013, when former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a state visit to the country, the two countries said they were planning on expanding cooperation in a range of areas including defense industrial collaboration as part of a broader effort to boost bilateral trade. At the time, Air Chief Marsal Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for legal, political, and security affairs, had suggested that there could be joint production of Polish military equipment, including aircraft, helicopters, combat vehicles, and aircraft, involving Indonesian state-owned enterprises.
That effort appears to be continuing under the Jokowi administration as part of broader ties. In May, on the sidelines of China’s One Belt One Road summit, Jokowi met with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, the first meeting by the heads of state of the two countries. The meeting focused mostly on economic and people-to-people cooperation, from increasing tourism numbers to support for the Indonesia-European Union Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IEU-CEPA) negotiations.
But maritime cooperation was also a focus, though few specifics were disclosed about exactly what was being envisioned and what implications there might be for defense ties if any. In a press statement, Jakarta said that the maritime cooperation would be in line with Jokowi’s global maritime fulcrum initiative which includes a focus on developing the country’s maritime infrastructure.
Then, last week, from June 8-10, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan visited Poland as part of an invitation from the Polish government to speak at the 5th International Maritime Congress. During his trip, he largely discussed areas of economic collaboration, including direct flights from Indonesia to Poland and exploring energy cooperation between the two countries.
But defense issues were in the mix as well, with Pandjaitan meeting with Deputy Defense Minister Bartosz Kownacki. He later highlighted the fact that Indonesia’s state-owned firms, such as PT PAL and PT PINDAD, could cooperate with their Polish counterparts. He also added that Indonesia’s military radar technology could be developed through partnership between the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and Polish company Pit-Radwar.
Whether or not any of this eventually takes off remains to be seen. But given the recent momentum in the overall relationship, it is worth keeping an eye out for what this might mean for the defense ties as well.