Last week, Indonesia moved to finally ratify a defense cooperation agreement that it had inked with Saudi Arabia. While the legal move represents just the latest step in the development of defense ties between the two sides, it nonetheless put the spotlight on the ongoing activity in this aspect of the relationship and the potential implications for its future evolution.
Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, two Muslim-majority nations, have diplomatic ties that date all the way back to 1950. But the development of the defense aspect of the relationship is a more recent trend that has occurred in just the last few years.
A landmark event in that context was the signing of the first defense cooperation agreement (DCA) between the two countries back in 2014. At the time, the development received significant headlines, with Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Salman bin Sultan Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who had signed the agreement on the Saudi side, paying the first visit to Indonesia by an official at that level and participating in a range of engagements, including viewing Indonesian defense technology and firing a submachine gun and hand gun at an Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) shooting range.
As with other pacts of its ilk, the DCA between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia – the first Jakarta had signed with any Middle Eastern nation – covered a range of functional areas, including education, training, exchanges, and defense industry cooperation, but also a number of issue areas where interests of both sides converged, such as counterterrorism. Both sides also flagged potential future areas of cooperation during the visit, including exercises, Saudi purchase of Indonesian defense equipment, and collaboration on common areas such as peacekeeping, as evidenced by Riyadh’s donation of an Arabic language laboratory to the Indonesian Peace and Security Center.
Last week, the formalization of defense ties took another procedural step forward with the formal legislative approval of the Indonesia-Saudi Arabia DCA. The move was formally and publicly announced on October 2 following weeks of prior discussions leading up to that.
Speaking to the significance of the move, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said the step represented progress for the development of a legal umbrella on top of defense ties, and expressed his gratitude for various parties for facilitating its development.
Ryacudu did not go into specifics about what this would mean for Indonesia-Saudi Arabia defense cooperation. But with this advancement we have now seen, it will be interesting to watch how this tangibly affects the future evolution of the defense relationship in the coming years.