Late last month, a new defense pact between Indonesia and Thailand inched forward toward realization with agreement on its ratification. Though the move was just one of a series that have been taken since the pact was first signed back in 2015, it nonetheless is significant within the context of the bilateral relationship in general and security ties in particular.
Indonesia and Thailand, Southeast Asia’s largest economies and among the initial founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), have long had a bilateral relationship that includes a security component. That includes not only routine areas of defense cooperation but also areas of concerns that need to be addressed, such as illegal fishing, which has been of particular concern for Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo since taking office (See: “Indonesia’s Maritime Ambitions: Can Jokowi Realize Them?”).
As ties continued to develop in this realm, the two defense ministers inked an initial memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defense cooperation back in May 2015. At the time, the thinking was that this could help encourage more collaboration in areas such as maritime security while also helping create a more favorable environment for the management of outstanding issues, including ongoing talks on maritime border delimitations, which Indonesia has been active on (See: “Why Did Indonesia Just Rename its Part of the South China Sea?”).
Yet the signing of the initial defense cooperation agreement was only the beginning of the process for both countries. As bilateral engagements, including initial border delimitation talks, have been ongoing, the next steps, formally speaking, included ratification and then progress on initial implementation of agreed steps.
Late last month, the bill moved forward in terms of ratification on the Indonesian side. Following a March 26 working meeting between officials including Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and lawmakers that was scheduled back in February, there was official agreement for ratification of the initial pact.
According to the defense ministry’s account of the meeting, Ryacudu reinforced his hope that the defense cooperation agreement would provide a strong legal basis for both sides to move forward on cooperation, including on issues that go beyond the Indonesian defense ministry and the military.
Following ratification, the agreement moves on to the initial implementation stage, marking yet another step in the slow but sure formalization of defense ties between the two Southeast Asian states.