Gates Notes Growth of Partnership With Indonesia
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
JAKARTA, Indonesia, July 22, 2010 In a commentary appearing in today’s edition of the Indonesian newspaper Kompas, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates noted the growth of the U.S. relationship with Indonesia, as well as Indonesia’s emergent role as a regional and global leader.
Gates met here today with Indonesian government leaders to discuss enhancement of the military relationship between the two countries.
“During my last visit to Indonesia two years ago, I remarked on this country’s transition from decades of military-dominated rule and its emergence as ‘one of the world’s newest and most vital democracies,’” Gates wrote. “On the eve of my second visit as United States secretary of defense, I have had the opportunity to reflect on how much the U.S.-Indonesia relationship has deepened since then, and how much more we can do together on behalf of security and prosperity for both our countries, the region and beyond.”
The secretary wrote that the countries’ bilateral relationship has matured from focusing on U.S. support for Indonesia’s democratic transition to furthering a strategic partnership and addressing common challenges -- for example, cooperation on issues ranging from terrorism and piracy to environmental degradation and disaster response.
The U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership that President Barack Obama discussed with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the G-20 Summit in Toronto last month and the recently signed U.S.-Indonesia Defense Framework Arrangement are important elements in that cooperation, Gates noted, adding that he would reiterate Obama’s commitment to broaden, deepen and elevate bilateral relations, with a focus on defense ties, during his visit to the Indonesian capital.
“Our two nations have a long history of military cooperation, born of our common values and the common threats we face,” the secretary wrote. “Many observers underestimated the potential of our bilateral relationship because of the challenges Indonesia faced during the 1990s. Indonesia proved these observers wrong and now seeks to use its experience as a model for other countries. Further, Indonesia’s transition to democracy and commitment to military reforms have enabled the United States to resume and deepen our defense cooperation.”
The Indonesian government has enhanced its capabilities to monitor and protect the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, and other critical waterways, Gates wrote, adding that the United States has targeted much of its assistance for the development of a maritime surveillance system to combat terrorism, piracy and other threats.
In addition, the secretary wrote, Indonesia has vast humanitarian assistance and disaster relief experience, and the United States is committed to assisting with improving the Indonesian armed forces’ mobility and airlift capabilities in this area.
“I believe Indonesia can be an international leader when it comes to disaster relief,” Gates wrote, “as Indonesia’s successful deployment in response to Haiti’s earthquake demonstrates.”
Indonesia is the 18th-largest contributor to the United Nations peacekeeping mission, with a sizable contingent in Lebanon, the secretary wrote, and the United States and Indonesia are working together in development of a new peacekeeping training center for the Indonesian military. “Further,” he added, “the government of Indonesia has led by example through its counterterrorism success, which combines expert police with experienced prosecutors.”
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Gates wrote, the United States and Indonesia share a commitment to investing in building the next generation of military and defense professionals.
“To this end, we have collaborated with the new Indonesian Defense University, which is educating Indonesia’s civilian and defense leaders,” the secretary wrote. “I believe that education and training will enhance the substantial progress the [Indonesian military] has already made in military professionalization and respect for human rights. In my view, establishing relationships at all levels is the key to further building mutual trust and understanding between our two defense departments.”
Gates closed his commentary with an expression of optimism for the future of the U.S.-Indonesian relationship.
“I believe under the auspices of the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership and the Defense Framework Arrangement,” he wrote, “the next generation of our two nations’ military leaders will appreciate the importance of this relationship and will be adequately prepared to address together the complex security challenges of tomorrow.”