ASEAN Beat

Army Chief Introductory Visit Highlights Indonesia-Singapore Defense Ties

A recent visit highlighted the ongoing bilateral activity in the defense realm.

Prashanth Parameswaran
Army Chief Introductory Visit Highlights Indonesia-Singapore Defense Ties

A photograph from a previous Indonesia-Singapore defense interaction.

Credit: MINDEF Singapore

Earlier this month, Indonesia’s army chief paid an introductory visit to Singapore. The trip spotlighted the ongoing collaboration between the two Southeast Asian states in the defense realm amid broader domestic and foreign developments underway.

As I have noted before in these pages, while the security relationship between Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest state, and Singapore, the region’s smallest, has tended to be prickly historically speaking, the two countries have nonetheless tried to maintain a cordial defense relationship that includes the usual components, including visits, exchanges, and exercises, across a range of areas that include counterterrorism and maritime security.

For instance, just earlier this month, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Commandos and the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) Special Forces Command (KOPASSUS) engaged in the latest iteration of Exercise Chandrapura from July 2 to July 11. The two sides also just finished holding the 25th iteration of Exercise Eagle Indopura from July 18 to July 25.

Earlier this month, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of Indonesia’s new army chief to Singapore. Andika Perkasa, the chief of staff of the Indonesian Army (TNI-AD), was in Singapore for his introductory visit that lasted from July 10 to July 13, following his official inauguration to the position last November under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Perkasa’s first visit to Singapore in his current capacity included meetings with top Singapore defense officials, including Chief of Defense Force Melvyn Ong, Chief of Army Goh Si Hou, and Senior Minister of State for Defense Mohamad Maliki bin Osman.

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Per Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), during the meetings, both sides reaffirmed the strong ties and record of cooperation between their two armies and also reiterated their mutual commitment to continue to strengthen defense ties.

Apart from those meetings, Perkasa’s visit also involved other activities as well. Per MINDEF, this included a visit to Singapore Army Headquarters 3rd Singapore Division and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) – TNI Army Interaction Games: one of the many expressions of defense-related interactions between the two sides and an example of the people-to-people links that are fostered as well via these activities.

Unsurprisingly, no further specifics were publicly disclosed by either side on their private deliberations. Nonetheless, such manifestations of their defense relations will continue to be important to watch to gauge how the general pursuit of collaboration is playing out at the operational level for the rest of 2019 and beyond.