The Jakarta Post
In a clear sign of growing bilateral defense cooperation, Indonesia and the United States ' as the co-chairs of the regional counterterrorism initiative ' are set to hold joint exercises, involving hundreds of special forces personnel from various countries in Sentul, Bogor, West Java, later this year, a minister said.
'There will be a major joint counterterrorism training exercises involving 1,800 special forces from 18 countries in Sentul in September,' Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told The Jakarta Post and Antara news agency on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday night.
Besides the US and Indonesia, the 10-day training will involve other ASEAN member countries plus South Korea, Australia, Russia, China, India, New Zealand and Japan.
According to Purnomo, the military ties between the two countries were growing stronger in recent years.
Purnomo also noted that Indonesia was ready to upgrade its military ties with the US and consider buying American weapons for its military modernization program.
'We welcome the US offer to help our military modernization program,' he said on Saturday, adding that a high-level US delegation would visit Jakarta to discuss the offer further.
During a meeting with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Purnomo said that the US reiterated its commitment to enhance military cooperation with the country and support the military modernization through US military sales.
'The two ministers reaffirmed the importance of deepening ties in support of the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership,' Pentagon spokesperson George Little said after the meeting.
Little added that the two countries had reviewed progress made in recent years to increase exercises and training, as well as regular defense policy dialogues.
However, the arms offer was not a complete sweetener. According to Little, Hagel laid the emphasis on the importance of human rights accountability for sustaining the momentum in defense ties.
Both countries are currently working together on humanitarian assistance and disaster response preparedness, maritime security, international peacekeeping, and combating transnational threats.
Indonesia welcomed the US pivot to Asia as it contributes to maintaining the balance of power in the region. 'We welcome the US rebalancing in Asia. It is necessary for regional stability, dynamic equilibrium and maintaining the balance of power in Asia. If it is for mutual benefit and brings new synergy to the region, why not,' Purnomo added.
As part of rebalancing in the region, US would station 60 percent of its naval assets as well as air force assets in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020.
It would also station or rotate four littoral combat ships in Singapore. The first ship USS Freedom has already docked in Singapore. It would also rotate 2,500 US marines in Darwin, Australia, every year.
Indonesia currently allocates around 1.3 percent of its GDP for military spending. It has a goal of attaining minimum essential forces by 2024.
As the economy grows more than 6 percent and the military budget surges, major powers are showing interest in establishing defense ties and cooperation with Jakarta.