Global Maritime Fulcrum, Where’s the fleets?


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Global Maritime Fulcrum, Where’s the fleets?

Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi while taking his presidential oath in front of House of Representative for his first term more than five years ago in 2014, has stated to bring Indonesia back to her roots as Maritime country thus come the terms as his dubbed his statement into Poros Maritime Dunia or Global Maritime Fulcrum. Actually when he is delivered the speech, Jokowi had hinted Global Maritime Fulcrum will be comprised of series of policy action either at domestic stages and foreign policy elements.

Jokowi government policy and actions during his first terms is full of Global Maritime Fulcrum rethorics, but unfortunately except for some policy stunts like sinking some foreign owned illegal fishing vessels and chasing actions against illegal fishing vessels, commanded by the then bohemian Minister of Fishery, Susi Pudjiastuti. Much of Jokowi Global Maritime Fulcrum has ended as empty rethorics. And one of the most interesting is, there is actually little Naval capacity building being done during his first term to accompany his vision to bring Indonesia as Global Maritime Fulcrum. Although Navy, in this modern era had become essential parts of Foreign Policies and Economic forces elements by many great power who aspired to enlarged their influences accros the globe by maintaining prominent Naval forces. As Alfred Tayer Mahan had believed before, “national greatness was inextricably associated with the sea, with its commercial use in peace and its control in war”. But nevertheless, the meaning of Global Maritime Fulcrum during Jokowi first term, in defense essential is fallshort to what compared other Naval Power had aspired actually to be. This essay will looking at how far Jokowi Global Maritime Fulcrum actually be actualized into defense capacity building, especially the Naval branch of Indonesian armed forces, TNI AL.

Why must we are talking about the Navy? In any case, a Navy or Sea Force hold a strategic roles within an Armed Forces, they had two purpose as offensive strategic forces and defensive strategic forces. The scope of operation for modern Navy is beyond what military and strategic planner had envissioned hundreds years ago. Modern Navy usually encompassed tri dimensional strategic projection of forces, namely surface warfare, air warfare and underwater warfare. With the tri dimensional strategic projection of forces they had a modern and powerful Navy can engage a much broader projection of forces, either in offensive nor defensive purposes. The unique of modern Naval forces made them as the most important branch of the armed forces for any Naval power aspired, especially for a country who actually the geography dictated by Maritime boundaries than continental landscapelike Indonesia. Indonesia is an archipelagic country, in which the total land are only comprised of around 35 percent from total area of the country. Indonesia has total land area of 1,904,569 square kilometres (735,358 sq mi), Including 93,000 square kilometres (35,908 sq mi) of inland seas (straits, bays and other bodies of water)[1]. This already made Indonesia as the largest archipelagic country in the world. The additional surrounding sea areas bring Indonesia's generally recognised territory (land and sea) to about 5 million km2. The government claims an exclusive economic zone of 6,159,032 km2 (2,378,016 sq mi). This brings the total area to about 7.9 million km2[2]. Indonesia itselflocated in Southeast Asia, lying between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It consists of more than seventeen thousand islands, including Sumatra, Java, Borneo (Kalimantan), Sulawesi, and New Guinea (Papua). The archipelago country itself located in a strategic location astride or along major sea lanes connecting East Asia, South Asia and Oceania with Malacca straits as the major sea lanes and one of the most important sea lanes in the world.

Great powers always pay careful attention to how much economic and military power they have relative to each other. It is important not only to have a substantial amount of power, but also to make sure that no other state sharply shifts the balance of power in its favor. And one of the best tools for any power to projected their hard power is by means of their Naval power. Thus came the relevance of Mahan theory into the play especially for Indonesian case. Indonesia itself is not only an archipelagic country, but herself since 2019 had become one of the major power in the region, her economy amounted around 1,1 trillion US dollar in GDP ranked 16 from almost 200 Nations and entities around the world, her young and bourgeoning population reach 260 million people and not to mention the rising of Indonesian middle class is something worthy to watch on. With such condition, is naturally imperative for Indonesia to build a formidable Naval power to safeguard the country for any internal and external threats which occasionally arises and too to bring the military might into diplomatic table when the situation demanded upon.

Si vis pacem, para bellum is a Latin adage translated as "If you want peace, prepare for war". The phrase presents the counter-intuitive insight that the conditions of peace are often preserved by a readiness to make war when necessitated. When you are at the weaker sides, transgression and provocation will likely to be happened as the weaker sides can’t much retaliate and the conditions of deterrence is not happened. For Indonesia, as a maritime country to have a strong Navy is a must, an obligation as there is a need to protect the chain of Islands separated by wide bodies of water comparable to great seas. Indonesia shared maritime border with other neighbouring countries include Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, Palau, and India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands and China who recently established themselves in South China Sea. In the past through maritime forces Indonesia had been subjected toward colonization by many world power by the likes Portuguese, French and British, the and Japan in which all of them is a Major Maritime power in which hold formidable Navy at their hands to come and conquer Indonesian archipelago. And by looking at such situation it is very imperative and logical for Indonesia to build a formidable Naval forces to protect her security, indepence and freedom and all dear of the people within.

But unfortunately, that’s not the case, Indonesia government has long since neglected their own Navy, mostly as in the past Indonesia government is dictated by Army oligarch who stay in power for almost 32 years long. The Army oligarch itself favored the political privilege of the Army officers compared to building a credible Naval and Air power and oddly the Army combat capability itself. After reformation era with the fall of Soeharto and his army oligarch, there is concerted effort to capitalize the momentum to starting to building the armed forces as a whole, icluding the Navy branch, but persistent lacks of funding and lack political willingness to invest more into defense spending hampered the effort.

To be honest, it’s not Indonesian Navy modernization effort is in vain, in the last 20 years especially in former Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono era, in which implemented Minimum Esential Forces programme, a modernization of main weapons system of Indonesian armed forces, comprised of three phase. MEF itself will be spanning between 2009 until 2024, supported in fully by former Minister of Defense Purnomo Yusgiantoro[3]. There is many program within Indonesian Ministry of Defense to building the Navy again taking the roots from MEF programme. Starting from programme to rebuild the capacity and capability of one Indonesian strategic Naval Shipyard, PT PAL Indonesia. The order of four new modern corvettes SIGMA class corvettes from Netherlands, order of three newly built of Submarine from South Korea, order of three Light Frigate from United Kingdom, order of at least four Makassar Class LPD in joint effort of building from South Korea and PT PAL, order of at least three newly built Bintuni class Landing Ship Tank, numerous Fast attack missile boats in 40 and 60 meter class, and many more. This effort made leeway for Indonesian Naval planner to dispose of their older Naval ships and incorporating newly built warships and naval ships with a more modern technology and potent armaments.

Not only that, the former administration too, made effort to overhaul and modernize the already old warships and other Navy assets and facilities including the Marine corps. One of the striking example is the refit and modernization of six Indonesian Navy main Surface warships, Ahmad Yani class, of six units. The newly refit ships being refitted with new armaments such as Mistral manpads, C802 AshM from China and one units being refitted to hold Russian made P8 Onyx long range Cruise missile in which can reach 300 km long target. Indonesian Navy naval aviation too made strides in progress with new capability like CN 235 MPA, Bell 412 EP utility helicopter, and Airbus helicopter Panther AS 565 Mbe ASW helicopter[4]. All in all, almost the entire program showing tremendous progress during the first phase of MEF, especially for the Navy programmes. Then come the election of 2014, in which the result led the Joko Widodo or prominently known as Jokowi win the race and elected as the Seventh President of Republic Indonesia and inaugurated in October 2014.

The coming of Jokowi and his pledged to guide Indonesia as a Maritime country toward Global Maritime Fulcrum goals, invigorated many Indonesian Naval planner and stakeholder to bring Indonesian Navy especially toward her second golden era. His administration inherited the major acquisition and Naval building program left by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, namely programme to build Submarine in name of Nagapasa class (named for the first class of the submarine, KRI Nagapasa, KRI Nagapasa itself is derivative of German U-209 class built in specification of South Korean Navy), then other major flag project is Multi Role Light Frigate project in cooperation with Damen Schelde Shipyard and PT PAL Indonesia. Both programme itself came into fruition in latter half of Jokowi first term, with the launching of final Submarine KRI Nagabanda and KRI Gusti Ngurah Rai in PT PAL facilities around 2018. Other worthy to mention programme is continuation programme like KCR 60 project, Oil Replenishment Ship, LST and LPD programme. Not to mention there is efforts to rebuild the Marine Corps and Navy Aviation Corps into a respectable forces with major restructuring and acquisition of modern weapons system.

With most of the contract and acquisition is being signed during 2013 through 2014 and most of the subsequent planning had been prepared ahead, Jokowi government duty actually just to watching over the implementation of the long term programme. But in reality there is much different between the planning and implementation during the first term of Jokowi administration. Such as, the delay for follow up Frigate construction after the completion of Martadhinata class frigate, failed to put the progress of OPV programme and failed to put into effect implementation of contract for second batch of Nagapasa class submarine programme comprises of three submarines. Not to mention Joko Widodo administration is too failed to emulated and implemented what next strategy needed to fulfill the Minimum Esential Forces programme for the second and third phase on time and on budget, with several key and high profile programmes currently in limbo although the programme itselves is very important pieces to create a formidable array of fleets and deterrence toward future threat.

Jokowi administration need to rethink again about how Indonesia as a Maritime country can’t forsakes the building of the Navy as what glue Indonesia together and much of responsibility to protect the whole islands with all of the water bodies and adjacent resources within is actually lie in the Navy hands. Until now, there is no other major acquisition programme or contract had been revised and implemented thoroughly while under care of Joko Widodo administration. The watchful eyes of the greedy adversary will always watching on how Indonesian government taking steps and progress to build a credible Navy and Naval forces as a whole, the failure to do so will only inviting danger and pack of wolves to gobble up our sovereignty by any means. The striking examples had been shown during recent stand off of Indonesia Navy and China Coast Guard in area near Natuna Islands Economy Exclusive Zone. Where Indonesia showing their weakness even entities what we called friend will not hesitated to taking the opportunity to launch what it is provocation and transgression acts against us. Just remember our Navy motto Jalesveva Jayamahe which means Our Glory is at the Seas, how can we achieve the glory at seas when our Naval fleets is in dilapidated states and severely behind our neighbours and peers, not to mention the World Power the likes of China and United States?

[1] [2]Frederick, William H.; Worden, Robert L. (2011). Indonesia: A Country Study. Government Printing Office.

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