Over Coffee #10: Indonesia and France ties, and Indo-Pacific updates

This week’s recap covers new developments in Indonesia’s “Papua strategy”, which has been predominantly militaristic in nature, and some good news on the development of Indonesia and France defence ties. There are also some updates on the Indo-Pacific.

I’m not actually trying any new brands of coffee this week. So far, I’ve been enjoying last week’s batch of wine-processed Gayo beans. Turns out I just needed to adjust the grind size and amount of water. Right now, I’m using a 16:1 ratio of water to coffee. While some might decry this as a travesty since it dilutes the coffee a bit too much, I find this is to be a tolerable ratio simply because the Gayo is just a tad too strong for my taste.

Indonesia’s Papua strategy and defence ties with France

Recently-appointed Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, Gen. Andika Perkasa, has outlined his plan for a more humane solution to the ongoing unrest in Papua. The plan relies on a ‘softer approach’, which entails less use of military power and more “love and affection” in a bid to win the hearts and minds of Papuans.

Given the plan hinges on the police and military, which are two of the least trusted institutions in the eyes of Papuans, its effectiveness is questionable. In addition, the government’s “welfare-first” orientation is not always in the best interests of the Papuan people. As Asmiati Malik points out in an essay three years ago, while the Jokowi administration may have accelerated infrastructure development of Papua in the form of shiny new toll roads and a stadium, the government fails to address the human rights issue at the heart of Papuan discontent.

Speaking of the Indonesian military, Indonesia has officially signed a deal with Dassault for the initial purchase of 6 units of the Rafale omni-role fighter. This will be followed by an additional 36 fighters, bringing the total to 42 Rafale fighters. The contract includes aircrew training, logistical support, and provision of a training center with two mission simulators. In addition to the Rafale, the meeting between Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto and Minister of the French Armed Forces Florence Parly resulted in several other memoranda of understanding (MoU). These include: procurement of two Scorpene submarines from Naval Group, defence satellite procurement from Thales, and on ammunition production.

Quickly following the French deal, the US State Department also approved a potential USD 13.9 billion deal for the sale of the F-15ID (also known as the F-15EX) fighter jet and additional equipment. While the approval does not mean a contract has been finalised as the plan still needs to pass Congress, this is still a win for Indonesia’s air force.

Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia updates

Still in Southeast Asia, the Myanmar junta invites select ethnic armed groups to preliminary peace talks, excluding those which are designated as ‘terrorist groups’ by the junta. The invitation was to discuss ‘perpetual peace talks’. Among the ethnic armed groups which responded, the response was negative. The Karen National Union stated that the junta had already violated the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Other ethnic armed groups have yet to respond to the invitation.

On to the Indo-Pacific. A F-35C Lightning-II experienced a ‘landing mishap’ while attempting to land aboard the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea on 24 January. A leaked video of the crash have been circling online. This week, the USNS Effective, a *Victorious-*class ocean surveillance ship, was spotted operating in the waters around 200 nautical miles west of Luzon island. The surveillance ship currently serves to aid the salvage effort.

Meanwhile, China donates military and construction equipment estimated to be worth millions of dollars to the Philippines. The equipment is expected to be used to assist in the rebuilding of the city of Marawi, which remains in tatters after the prolonged siege between the Philippines armed forces and ISIS militants. The equipment includes drone systems, detectors, water purification vehicles, ambulances, firetrucks, x-ray machines, explosive-ordinance disposal robots, bomb disposal suits and transport vehicles.

That’s all for this week! Come back again next week for more updates on events occurring in the Indo-Pacific!

Header image: Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto welcomes Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly. Image from @Kemhan_RI.

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