Finding Common Ground on Regional Security

Finding Common Ground on Regional Security

Gen. (Ret.) Ryamizard Ryacudu/minister of defense, Indonesia

Photos by The Associated Press

Indonesia affirms the importance of the Shangri-La Dialogue forum as a medium to strengthen productive, interactive communication among participants as well as to seek common understandings and common grounds that lead to finding a common solution in addressing our common challenges that can undermine regional peace and stability. In the end, this forum is expected to contribute to making a defense policy aimed at the realization of the peace and prosperity for the respective people, as promised by every leader when campaigning to win election. At the same time, this forum can also help turn uncertainty into certainty.

Indonesia reiterates the need of every leader in ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] together with its partner nations to increase our commonalities and similarities and at the same time eliminate or decrease our differences that weaken our spirit of brotherhood that align with the strong spirit of ASEAN and spirit of ASEAN Plus. With these modalities, we all can resolve any common challenges and obstruction with the peaceful spirit of ASEAN as our legacy since its establishment 50 years ago.

Some modalities and commonalities that we have in the region as the foundation of our unified cooperation among members of ASEAN and its partner nations include that we face common threats ranging from terrorism and radicalism, separatism and armed uprising, natural disasters, border violations, robbery and theft of natural resources to disease epidemics, the drug trade and abuse of narcotics.

On this special occasion today, I will focus mainly on Indonesia’s perspective to cope with the development of the threatening global and regional threat of terrorism and militancy in our region. The terrorism threat in this region has turned into an unprecedented immediate level of emergency. The Daesh [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS] group’s area of operation has gone global and is not limited to the Middle East. Now they have entered the strong perimeter of defense around Europe and Asia as we witness the terror attacks in Manchester, Indonesia and Egypt and the ISIS attack in Marawi in the southern Philippines.

Based on data from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, in late 2016, the strength of ISIS was more than 31,500 fighters and 11,000 sympathizers. In Southeast Asia, it’s estimated there are about 1,000 sympathizers. With this amount, the world has been overwhelmed, bothered and begun to fear acts by terrorist groups. Given that Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, with about 200 million people, if half a percent become sympathizers of ISIS, it means about 1 million sympathizers. It is a terrible number.

ISIS’ ideology is not about Islam or culture. Indonesia strongly rejects and resists ISIS and will give no room to this group in Indonesian territory. Indonesia will stay steadfast and support the intelligence and information in the region to crush terrorism.

Indonesia’s large number of Muslims are prime targets for being influenced by the radicalism of this ISIS group. The results of a survey in December 2015 indicated that 96 percent of Indonesians are adamantly opposed to the ISIS ideology. However,
4 percent of the respondents chose not to answer.

In the book The Future of Power by Joseph Nye, it is written that physical action using guns or hard power will only contribute 1 percent in resolving the basic root of terrorism, while 99 percent of the solution is through soft power with the involvement of all people in the nations by socializing the spirit of nationalism and love of  the nation. In our country, we call this the spirit of Bela Negara, or defending the nations.

In my capacity as Indonesia defense minister, I have designed a heart-based and people-oriented defense strategy. I call it the Smart Power Defence Strategy, which combines our defense diplomacy approach and building our defending capability through total war, which include the strengthening of the people’s power, spirit and their mindset, the Bela Negara program supported by defense force capability and its armament. The spirit behind this strategy is based on our traditional value of respect, tolerance, caring, sincere sacrifice for the nations. All of these values are reflected in our ideology and guidelines principle known as Pancasila.

In light of the above, I would like to take this opportunity to propose the establishment of a more concrete and pragmatic concerted platform of regional cooperation and collaboration — a broader level of cooperation and engagement than the existing one. A concrete example of this is the establishment of the trilateral arrangement on the Sulu waters between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Initially, the objective of this establishment was to fight piracy, but note this platform has been expanded and extended to fight the development of ISIS in the region.

Currently, Indonesia and Malaysia are often faced with piracy, and crews are taken hostage by the radical Abu Sayyaf Group. Indonesia highly appreciates that the government of the Philippines has deployed its military to crack down on the radical group and release the hostages. To address threats to the stability, security and peace in the region, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have held a trilateral meeting to discuss maritime cooperation for the security and safety of the ships and people who are crossing the waters in the areas of common concern. To implement this maritime cooperation, the three countries signed the framework of arrangement (FOA) in which the standard operating procedure (SOP) on coordinated maritime patrols is one of the annexes.

The three defense ministers have held meetings several times to make a collective agreement that was followed by a joint working group to finalize the SOP for corridor transit, sea marshal, establishment of a joint command post, and so forth. A major step forward by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines would be to accelerate implementation of the FOA, planning for joint exercises on land by the three armed forces, joint operations and the possibility to develop trilateral cooperation involving other countries, such as Thailand and Singapore. Trilateral cooperation is not only intended to prevent piracy and hostages but also to prevent the spread of transnational crime. Indonesia argues that the correlation between maritime domain awareness and the implementation of  coordinated maritime patrols can be realized with capacity building programs. Also, it is open to other countries outside the region only for capacity building and technical assistance, according to the agreement of coastal states in the region.

The key point in responding to security threats is through security consultations undertaken bilaterally and multilaterally, with the purpose to resolve tensions and to prevent the spread of the conflict.

I believe that no single country can resolve security threats independently. It requires cooperation among countries in the region.

Currently, we have three platforms of cooperation in the region which are joint patrols in the Malacca Strait, maritime security cooperation in the Gulf of Thailand and the trilateral arrangement in the Sulu waters. In the future, we should also consider the involvement of other countries, such as Singapore, Vietnam and other ASEAN countries, to expand our capacity and our capability.

The current strength of the active military in this trilateral arrangement is 1 million personnel, a collaboration that has covered one-third of the region of South China Sea. With the ASEAN population of 569 million people as well as 2.6 million military personnel, ASEAN is more than ready to defend its own region.

The security forums in the region that we have, such as the ADMM [ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting], the ARF [ASEAN Regional Forum], the East Asian Summit and other ASEAN regional forums and Shangri-La Dialogue and joint patrol in Malacca Strait, must be optimized to build trust and cooperation to strengthen the existing security architecture.

Respecting the sovereignty of a nation is the key point, and that can’t be compromised. We can’t afford to intervene in other nations’ territorial integrity without their consent. Noting the current dynamic development in our region, allow me to underline the importance of common understanding in addressing our common challenges. It is imperative to enlarge our commonalities and decrease our differences in our endeavor to achieve our common security and prosperity.

Indonesia’s minister of defense, retired Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu, delivered this speech June 4, 2017, during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. It has been edited to fit FORUM’s format.