Indonesia Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

According to abbreviationfinder, Indonesia is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Jakarta. As a major power in Southeast Asia, Indonesia has long prioritized regional issues in foreign policy. Despite this, the country has had a number of difficult conflicts with neighboring countries, not least with Malaysia and East Timor. Occupation of East Timor 1975–1999 lay for decades as a shadow over Indonesia’s contacts with the outside world. Today, however, foreign policy relations are generally good, even with East Timor. Indonesia receives military support from the US in the fight against terrorism.

indonesia military spending and defense budget

Indonesia’s geographical, economic and military size makes the country a regional superpower. Ever since the 1960s, the Indonesian governments have concentrated foreign policy on regional issues. In 1967 Indonesia participated in the formation of Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations). In 2007, the Asian countries agreed to create an economic union. Within it, goods, services, labor and capital can move freely. The aim is for the region to attract more foreign investment and not be overshadowed economically and politically by China and India.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Indonesia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Indonesia has a complicated relationship with the Asian countries Malaysia and Singapore. The wooden cases have mainly been about the right to territorial water, the use of natural resources and the fact that many Indonesian guest workers have been treated poorly in Malaysia and Singapore. Malaysia, for its part, has expressed dissatisfaction that the Indonesian government has not done enough to stop emigration. The heavy and health-threatening smoke caused by forest fires in Indonesia, which sometimes spread to the two neighboring countries, is also a source of discontent. However, under President Widodo, relations with Malaysia and Singapore are believed to have improved, partly because Indonesia has taken more measures to stop the forest fires and smoke.

Good contacts with East Timor

Despite Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of East Timor, the two neighboring countries now have good relations. At independence in 2002, East Timor quickly established diplomatic relations with Indonesia, which is East Timor’s most important trading partner. The East Timorese attitude towards Indonesia is conciliatory. The East Timorese government has stated that it will not make any further attempts to bring responsible Indonesians to justice for crimes committed during the occupation (1975-1999) or the wave of violence that Indonesia-friendly militia staged with the support of Indonesian military in connection with East Timor’s release in 1999 (see East Timor: Modern History).

Indonesia, however, received international criticism for its actions in connection with the referendum on independence in East Timor in 1999. Indonesian military would be responsible for security in the area, but the Indonesian-friendly militia was instead supported by local military in the pursuit of independence supporters. Even today, it is a burden for Indonesia in an international context that several high-ranking militants have not been brought to justice for participation in human rights violations in East Timor.

Complicated relationships with Australia

Contacts with Australia deteriorated in connection with the events in East Timor in 1999. Indonesia reacted negatively to the neighboring country taking over the command of the international UN force that then entered East Timor. Relations improved from 2001, and in 2005 Australia and Indonesia signed a cooperation agreement on security and defense issues.

However, when Australia granted about 40 people from Papua temporary residence permits in 2006, Indonesia reacted sharply and felt that Australia, through its actions, took a stand for the separatists in Papua (see Papua). However, Australia expressed its support for a united Indonesia, and since Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd took office in 2007, relations have improved again through increased cooperation in the environment, diplomacy and the economy.

A new crisis arose in the fall of 2013, when it was revealed that the Australian intelligence service in 2009 had intercepted President Yudhoyono, his wife, the Vice President and a number of Indonesian ministers. As a result, Indonesia interrupted some cooperation with Australia, such as efforts to smuggle human trafficking, joint military exercises and exchange of intelligence. The crisis was resolved through a special agreement in August 2014, which meant that the canceled partnerships could be resumed.

Relations became once again frosty when Indonesia executed two doomed Australians in April 2015. Through diplomacy, the relationship then improved to such an extent that in August 2018 the two countries could enter into both a free trade agreement and an agreement on enhanced security cooperation.

In recent years, the boat refugee stream from South Asia and Afghanistan to Australia via Indonesia has also caused great irritation between the countries, as Australia has accused Indonesia of not doing enough to stop the refugees’ further journey towards Australia. The flight often takes place with the help of human smugglers via Indonesian ports. Indonesia, for its part, accuses Australia of letting ships enter Indonesian waters and forcing the refugee boats back to Indonesia.

US a close ally

In Western countries, not least in the United States, Indonesia has been seen as a counter-pole to China and the location in the middle of the shipping routes between the Middle East and Northeast Asia has given the country a significant strategic importance. The United States sees Indonesia as “a moderate voice in the Islamic world” and a reliable ally in the fight against terrorism. The United States provides Indonesia with military support, which increased during the terrorist fight in the 21st century. When Barack Obama, who partially grew up in Indonesia, became president of the United States in 2008, an even stronger bond was formed between the countries. At a visit to Indonesia in February 2009, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the country would play a key role in the Obama administration’s foreign policy as a bridge between the Muslim world and the West.

When Obama visited Indonesia in November 2010, he described the host country as a good example of how a developing country can be democratic, taking into account the diversity within its borders and how a predominantly Muslim country can generally show tolerance for religious minorities. Obama also emphasized Indonesia’s increased international importance as a strong growth economy.

Relations with Washington were strained when Donald Trump was elected US President in November 2016. Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric during the election campaign and his decision to impose an entry ban on residents of a number of Muslim countries caused irritation and concern in Jakarta. Various high-ranking representatives of the United States have subsequently tried to pour oil on the waves by emphasizing Indonesia’s continued important role in US foreign policy.

Approaching China

Indonesia’s diplomatic relations with China were interrupted in connection with the 1965 coup and the purge campaign that was then directed against the country’s communists. In 1990, diplomatic relations were re-established but cooled again by the persecution and harassment of the Chinese minority in connection with Suharto’s 1998 fall. use and teach mandarin (Chinese dialect) in Indonesia.

But it was not until President Yudhoyono’s 2004 accession that contacts with China became warmer. In 2005, the two countries signed an agreement on increased cooperation in trade, investment and defense. The countries would, among other things, produce military vehicles together and carry out joint military exercises. An agreement on enhanced cooperation in politics, justice and security was signed in 2010 and China has made new investments in the Indonesian growth economy.

Indonesia has managed to stay quite a distance from the US Trump administration’s trade dispute with China in the 2010s. President Widodo has maintained a lower profile in international affairs than his representative Yudhoyono. Widodo’s foreign policy has mainly focused on increased trade, and exports to China have increased, as have Chinese investments in Indonesia. However, the two countries are in conflict over the island of Natuna in the South China Sea, as both Indonesia and China claim it.

Other important relationships

During Yudhoyono, Indonesia also formed closer ties with, among others, Russia, India and Japan through bilateral cooperation agreements. When President Widodo visited Tokyo in March 2015, the two countries decided to strengthen defense cooperation, particularly in the Navy. Widodo said Indonesia continued to decide to act as mediator in the regional conflict over the South China Sea.

Relations with Saudi Arabia deteriorated in the summer of 2011, when Indonesia imposed a temporary ban on citizens from hiring as Saudi Arabian maids. The decision was made after an Indonesian maid was executed without the Saudis first notifying the Jakarta government. The woman had been sentenced to death since she murdered her employer, who she reportedly had beaten her. Around 1.5 million Indonesians worked at this time in Saudi Arabia, many of them as domestic workers. The ban was preceded by reports of a number of cases where Indonesian maids had been treated poorly by Saudi employers.

The unrest in Papua has disturbed Indonesian relations with Papua New Guinea. Indonesia has tried to prevent members of the Papuan separatist movement OPM from taking refuge in Papua New Guinea, and Indonesian soldiers have made raids into the neighboring country. A friendship agreement between the countries was established in 1986 and renewed in 1990 in an attempt to prevent military conflicts. But the unrest at the border has continued.

Indonesia’s relations with a number of countries were negatively affected when on April 28, 2015, the country executed eight convicted drug traffickers in the smuggler network Bali Nine. Among the eight were seven foreign nationals: two Australians, three Nigerians, one Ghanaian and one Brazilian. The eighth was Indonesia. The Australian government called home its ambassador for consultations and Brazil said the executions would have consequences for bilateral relations between Brazil and Indonesia. A Filipino woman, who was also sentenced to death, had her execution postponed and Philippines President Aquino thanked Widodo and called the decision a “miracle”. Even a Frenchman had his execution postponed for legal reasons. Indonesia justified the executions of the country in ”


The defense is based on selective (not general, a selection is made) military service for at least two years. The military equipment is mainly of Western origin, but there are also domestic and Soviet defense equipment. (For information on the military’s political and economic influence in society, see Democracy and Rights.)


Army: 300 400 Men (2017)

The air Force: 30 100 men (2017)

The fleet: 65,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.8 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 4.8 percent (2017)



Two militant Islamist leaders are arrested

Two high-ranking leaders of militant Islamist network Jemaah Islamiah, Zarkasih and Abu Dujana, are arrested by police.