PartnershipsSoutheast Asia

Education, training central to enhanced Indonesia-Singapore defense cooperation

Tom Abke

Indonesia and Singapore are advancing implementation of their recently ratified Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA), opening the door for increased defense engagement between the two countries through defense exercises, training and education of defense personnel, and intelligence sharing.

Recent meetings between Indonesian Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto and Singapore Defense officials in Jakarta made this clear. Prabowo, pictured left, met with Singapore’s Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, pictured right, on March 1, 2023, and with the commander of the Singapore Armed Forces, Lt. Gen. Melvyn Ong, two days earlier. Prabowo held both meetings at Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense, known as Kemhan, in Jakarta.

“We welcome every effort to strengthen and create harmonious defense cooperation between the two countries and are open to exploring all potential defense cooperation that provides mutual benefits,” Prabowo said following his meeting with Hean, according to Kemhan.

The DCA was an important topic at both meetings. First signed in 2007 and ratified in 2022, the DCA is a bilateral treaty that covers various aspects of defense and security cooperation, such as joint exercises, intelligence sharing, military education, logistics support and humanitarian assistance.

The DCA should enhance defense cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore, Prabowo affirmed following his meeting with Ong. Increased cooperation should also boost the human resources available to both nations’ defense.

In the meeting between Prabowo and Hean, the ministers prioritized the Implementing Arrangement (IA) for the Military Training Area (MTA), land within Indonesia designated for Singapore’s land and air forces training. The IA, which is part of the DCA, replaced an agreement signed in 1995.

Following the DCA’s 2022 ratification, Singapore’s Ministry of Defense praised the treaty for demonstrating mutual trust and strategic partnership between Indonesia and Singapore, as well as their shared interest in maintaining regional stability and security. The ministry also recognized the benefits of the MTA, which is important for Singapore’s defense capabilities, given its limited land area.

The DCA complements other defense cooperation between the countries, such as the Malacca Straits Patrol, which involve Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

In his meeting with Hean, Prabowo emphasized the importance of defense education as a target area of the two countries’ cooperation. He extended an invitation to members of the Singapore Armed Forces to enroll in the Indonesian Defense University’s master’s program. Education programs, including defense diplomacy, asymmetric warfare, defense management and others, are available through the Indonesian Defense University, according to Kemhan. Students from Australia, China, India, Malaysia and other nations have enrolled.

The two nations will soon set up an annual forum to talk about defense cooperation and to examine potential new areas of collaboration, according to Kemhan.

Indonesia and Singapore share security concerns including terrorism and transnational crime. In addition to the DCA, Indonesia’s parliament ratified two other defense- and security-related agreements between the nations in 2022: an agreement to realign boundaries between Jakarta and Singapore Flight Information Regions, which settled a dispute over a civil aviation demarcation; and a treaty that enables people accused of certain crimes to be extradited from one country to the other.

“The Ministry of Defense fully supports the close military cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore, which was built on the principles of equality, mutual benefit and full respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law,” Prabowo said.

Tom Abke is a FORUM correspondent reporting from Singapore.


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