Earlier this week, Indonesia and Brunei held the latest iteration of their joint defense cooperation committee meeting. The interaction put the spotlight on the evolving security cooperation between the two Southeast Asian states and how that could shape up in the coming years.
While Indonesia and Brunei underwent a tumultuous period in their relationship at the height of the Cold War, the contemporary diplomatic relationship has gradually evolved to also include a defense component. The foundation document is the defense memorandum of understanding (MOU) inked by the two sides in 2003, which has paved the way for a relationship that now includes components such as high-level visits, education courses, training, and exercises, along with functional areas of discussion on issues of common interest such as counterterrorism and maritime security.
One of the mechanisms within the bilateral defense relationship is the Joint Defense Cooperation Committee (JDCC). The JDCC was created to help coordinate efforts underway on the defense side and also to help consider future ways both sides could deepen their defense relationship. The last iteration of the JDCC was held in November 2016 in Indonesia.
On November 12, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the holding of the 3rd Joint Defense Cooperation Committee (JDCC) meeting between the two sides. The meeting was conducted in Brunei and was chaired by the permanent secretary of Brunei’s defense ministry and the secretary-general of the Indonesian defense ministry.
According to Brunei’s defense ministry, the meeting touched on a range of matters, from bilateral defense relations between the two sides to the state of the current regional and global security environment. The two countries also discussed future opportunities to enhance defense cooperation between them beyond the current engagements they are already holding.
Unsurprisingly, no further specifics were publicly unveiled by either side about the exact future opportunities both countries were looking at. But both sides have been mulling options in several areas, including the potential for Brunei to purchase Indonesian defense equipment. Indeed, during Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s visit to Indonesia earlier this year, talks with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo included a reference to this issue, and indications were that Brunei could move forward with buying armored personnel carriers and other weapons from PT PINDAD, such as assault rifles. There was also talk of additional items including ships and planes.
Few additional details have been made available since then on that count, and on other areas the two countries are exploring. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what both sides seek to undertake on the defense side following the meeting and into 2019.