Earlier this month, Brunei’s air force chief paid an introductory visit to Indonesia. The interaction, which was the first publicized one among the two countries in 2019, highlighted ongoing efforts to further boost collaboration in the defense realm into the new year.
As I have noted before in these pages, 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 include a defense component. The relationship 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.
2019 was expected to see a continuation of efforts by both sides to try to further boost defense ties. During Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s visit to Indonesia last year, some defense-related priorities had been discussed, including Brunei potentially buying more Indonesian military equipment as well.
Earlier this month, the defense relationship was in the headlines again with the introductory visit of Brunei’s air force chief to Indonesia. Haji Hamzah, who has assumed his position in August 2018 following a wider political reshuffle in the Southeast Asian state earlier that year, paid a three-day scheduled trip to Jakarta.
The voyage, which lasted from January 10 to January 12, consisted of a series of official interactions. This included meetings with top Indonesian officials, including Indonesia’s air force chief Hadi Tjahjanto at Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) headquarters.
According to Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF), during their meeting, the two air force chiefs reaffirmed the relations between the two services, which already interact regularly through activities such as exercises, cross-attendances at courses, visits, and other professional exchanges.
There were also other ceremonial activities that accompanied the visit as well. For instance, Hamzah was awarded the TNI-AU Honorary Pilot Wing by the Indonesian air force chief, in recognition of his efforts to contributing to the strengthening of ties between the two air forces.
Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of specifics was publicly disclosed about Hamzah’s trip and the discussions between the two sides, including other interactions we may see in the security domain in the rest of 2019 as well as advances on previously discussed priorities such as the purchasing of defense equipment. How exactly both sides will attempt to translate their articulation of general priorities into actual, realized cooperation will be the key question to watch through the rest of this year.