On September 24, reports surfaced that one of Indonesia’s state-owned defense companies had received interest from Laos for some new arms sales. The reports are part of a broader development where Jakarta is seeking to strengthen its defense industry, including through selling more products to regional countries like Laos with which it is commemorating 60 years of relations this year.
As I have noted before, Indonesia, not unlike some other major Asian states, has been trying to get its state-owned defense firms, including shipbuilder PT PAL, weapons and land systems maker PT PINDAD, and aircraft maker PT DI, to sell more products abroad and to boost their level of expertise. Though some advances have been made, familiar challenges remain (See: “An Indonesian Defense Revolution Under Jokowi?”).
A case in point is PT PAL. Though it has seen some advances – from a contract to deliver Strategic Sealift Vessels (SSVs) to the Philippines to other reported orders from other ASEAN and African nations – the picture is not quite as sunny as Indonesian officials portray it to be (See: “Indonesia: A New Shipbuilding Magnet from ASEAN to Africa?”).
Indonesia continues to market the products of its state-owned defense firms, and the recent Laos story that made the headlines is a case in point. As state-owned media outlet ANTARA News reported, the interest from Laos came after PT PINDAD had promoted its products to the Laos defense ministry as one of the companies participating in the Trade and Tourism Fair 2017 held by the Indonesian Embassy in Vientiane to mark the 60th anniversary of Indonesia-Laos relations. PT PINDAD’s vice president for export Ridi Djajakusuma was quoted as saying that the ministry had expressed “keen interest” in buying weapons such as short rifles and ammunition.
Laos is no stranger to Indonesian weapons, having previously purchased weapons such as pistols, rifles, and ammunition. Djajakusuma said the interest expressed this time by the ministry during their meeting on September 21 was roughly along the same lines product-wise, specifically in buying G2 elite pistols, SPR sniper rifles, and ammunition.
It will be interesting to see how this progresses as the two countries continue commemorating their 60th anniversary this year, which has already seen a flurry of activity. Security cooperation has factored into broader bilateral discussions, including at the fifth iteration of the Indonesia-Laos Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation held in Jakarta in July led by their two foreign ministers Retno Marsudi and Saleumzay Kommasith. Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith is due to visit Indonesia later this year.