Last week, Indonesia and Singapore held a mine countermeasure exercise. The trip spotlighted the ongoing collaboration between the two Southeast Asian navies in the defense realm within their wider bilateral relationship.
As I have noted before in these pages, while defense ties between Indonesia and Singapore have 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.
This includes interactions between the two navies. The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) participate in a series of interactions to include exchanges, visits, and exercises on a bilateral level as well as multilateral interactions such as the Malacca Straits Patrol and participation in ASEAN-related security interactions.
Last week, the maritime aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the holding of a bilateral exercise. The Singapore and Indonesian navies held a bilateral mine countermeasure and clearance diving exercise that was held from August 14 to August 19.
The exercise, named Joint Minex Pandu, was conducted by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) in Batam, waters off Bintan, and Singapore. It combined Joint Minex, an MCM exercise, and Exercise Pandu, a clearance diving exercise, to enhance the capabilities with respect to mine-countermeasure vessels (MCMV) and dive team capabilities of the two navies related to underwater threats.
Per a statement on the exercise released by Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), the exercise consisted of several aspects. These included table-top planning exercises, professional exchanges on mine-hunting and clearance diving techniques, MCM breakthrough operations, and MCM drills to respond to non-conventional maritime security threats.
In terms of forces involved, MINDEF said that this year’s exercise saw the participation of more than 250 personnel from the RSN and the TNI. In terms of capabilities, the RSN participated in the exercise with two Bedok-class MCMVs, RSS Bedok and RSS Punggol, and a Clearance Diving Team, and the TNI AL sent two Pulau Rengat-class MCMVs, KRI Pulau Rengat and KRI Pulau Rupat and an Underwater Demolition unit as well.
Unsurprisingly, neither side publicly disclosed much more in the way of specifics about the exercise and specific aspects of it. Nonetheless, the interaction underscored the ongoing efforts by both sides to continue to develop their defense ties in spite of the enduring challenges that remain in the wider relationship.