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ALRI - Navy of the Republic of Indonesia - Missions

TNI Law No. 34/2004 limited TNI-AL deployment to only within “national jurisdictional waters.” As an archipelagic country, Indonesia’s strategic attention is different from the navies of continental and island states. The focus is on the internal maritime security environment, focused solely on sea control and power projection within Indonesia’s territorial seas and archipelagic waters. The TNI-AL is essentially defensive, and does not adhere to the Mahanian concept of command of the sea. It does nor envision projecting naval power beyond Indonesia's waters, but is focused on sea control and amphibious operations within Indonesia’s EEZ and archipelagic waters.

The TNI-AL strategy of “Archipelagic Sea Defence Strategy” (Strategi Pertahanan Laut Nusantara, SPLN) emphasizes “strategic funnels” (corong strategis), the bodies of water located at both ends of Indonesia’s three north-south archipelagic sea lanes (ASLs). The TNI-AL views the strategic funnels as potential flashpoints, given proximity to neighboring countries, abundant marine resources, and unresolved maritime boundary disputes. They are also places where naval forces can be effectively concentrated to interdict an enemy fleet.

The navy's mission was to act as a territorial force responsible for the patrol of Indonesia's immense coastline. When independence was proclaimed and sovereignty gained, Indonesia had to enact laws to govern the seas in accordance with the geographic structure of an archipelagic state. This, however, did not mean that the country would bar international passage. The laws were necessary instruments for the unity and national resilience of the country, with a territory that embraces all the islands, the islets and the seas in between.

In view of the country's susceptibility to foreign intervention from the sea and for domestic security reasons, on December 13, 1957, the Indonesian Government issued a declaration on the territorial waters of the Republic. It stated that all the waters surrounding and between the islands in the territory came within Indonesia's sovereignty. It also determined that the country's territorial water limit was 12 miles, measured from a straight baseline drawn from the outermost points of the islands.

In the past, archipelagic states like Indonesia have unilaterally determined their 200-mile-Exclusive Economic Zones. Today such economic zones are confirmed by the International Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was ratified by the Indonesian Government on October 18, 1983, by Act No. 5 of the same year. This is the legal basis of the Indonesian-Exclusive Economic Zone.

In the early 1990s, naval warships generally were not deployed to a particular region but were grouped in mobile flotillas, to be dispatched where needed. Usually these included eastern, western, and central groups, but activity was most often concentrated in the west in the vicinity of the bases at Belawan in Sumatera Utara Province, Tanjungpinang in Riau Province, near Singapore; and in the east near the base at Manado in Sulawesi Utara Province. This pattern was in keeping with the major missions envisioned for the navy in the 1990s.

One mission concerned patrolling the strategic straits through which foreign ships enter and exit the Indian Ocean, particularly the Strait of Malacca. The other mission centered on halting smuggling and illegal fishing, considered to be problems particularly in the areas near the Natuna Islands and in the seas between Kalimantan and Irian Jaya. In support of the second mission, the navy announced plans to construct a number of limited-role bases in isolated areas in the eastern and western sections of the national territory. Patrol activity also increased in connection with the flow of refugees from Southeast Asia, particularly in the area near the Natuna Islands.

Indonesia's incentive to protect its straits is to demonstrate sovereignty over its waters, while promoting good international relations, especially since it receives security assistance and counterterrorism funding from the United States and Australia and aid from Japan. Indonesia has also promoted cooperation between the littoral states; held biannual coordinated patrols with India since September 2002; and signed agreements with Australia, Japan, and India to increase cooperation in security matters, including maritime security. Indonesia also expanded its defense interactions with the United States after the restoration of U.S. international military education and training (IMET), and operational exchanges, such as the annual "Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training"(CARAT) exercises, were broadened to build understanding and interoperability further. For example,the sea phase of exercise CARAT was lengthened to five days in July 2006, more than double the length of the previous year's exercise.

Indonesia is the weak link in security for the Malacca Strait. Its islands adjacent to the Strait are havens for pirates and potentially for terrorists. TheIndonesian navy has minimal capabilities. The politically dominant army appears to have at best a low level commitment to security in the Strait. Raising the army’s commitment probably is another motive behind the push of the Bush Administration and the Pentagon to resume full military-to-military relations with the Indonesian military (TNI).

Pirates and Islamist terrorist groups have long operated in the same areas, including the Arabian Sea, the South China Sea, and in waters off the coast of western Africa. In the face of massive international efforts to freeze their finances, terrorist groups have come to view piracy as a potentially rich source of funding. This appeal is particularly apparent in the Strait of Malacca, the 500-mile corridor separating Indonesia and Malaysia, where over 40 percent of pirate attacks took place in 2003. According to Indonesia's state intelligence agency, detained senior members of Jemaah Islamiyah, the al Qaeda-linked Indonesian terrorist group, admitted that the group had considered launching attacks on Malacca shipping.

The most dangerous passage of all is the Strait of Malacca. Every day, a quarter of world trade, including half of all sea shipments of oil bound for eastern Asia and two-thirds of global shipments of liquefied natural gas, passes through this strait. Roughly 600 freighters loaded with everything from Japanese nuclear waste bound for reprocessing facilities in Europe to raw materials for China's booming economy traverse this chokepoint daily. Roughly half of all piracy attacks today occur in Southeast Asia, mostly in Indonesian waters. Singapore's defense minister, Teo Chee Hean, has said that security along the strait is "not adequate" and that "no single state has the resources to deal effectively with this threat."

An operationally oriented instrument of cooperation is the Regional Maritime Security Initiative (RMSI) under discussion among Asian nations in 2005. This initiative aims to combat the transnational threats of maritime piracy and terrorism in the Strait of Malacca and the Singapore Strait by introducing joint naval exercises and other mechanisms for information sharing and cooperation on law enforcement operations. An additional objective of the RMSI is to monitor, identify, and intercept suspected vessels in national and international waters. This, however, requires strong naval forces, and the navies of countries affected by maritime terror are not up to the task.

When Washington floated the option of U.S. naval vessels patrolling the Strait of Malacca, both Indonesia and Malaysia responded with concerns that such a presence would itself become a lightning rod for radical Islamic groups, inviting more attacks both at sea and against each government. The United States actively supports the Indonesian Navy to protect the vitally important sea lanes of Southeast Asia, through which an estimated 60 percent of global shipping tonnage passes.

Despite engaging in more extensive modernization of its navy, Indonesia has a smaller economic stake in developing its navy than Singapore or Malaysia. This is because while those countries must protect the Malacca and Singapore straits, which are regular targets of piracy, Indonesia conducts the majority of its trade is conducted through the safer Lombok and Sunda straits. For the Indonesian navy, patrolling its extensive maritime borders;handling maritime border disputes; and countering smuggling, illegal fishing,and environmental degradation are more important than countering piracy.

Such priorities are higher for Indonesia's navy since Indonesians are particularly sensitive to border disputes because Indonesia lost two small islands off eastern Borneo, Sipadan and Ligitan, to Malaysia as the result of an International Courtof Justice decision in 2002, and is in a dispute over control of the adjoining oil-rich Ambalat region of the Celebes Sea, for which Indonesia sent 7 warships and four F-16s there in March 2005 after alleged incursions by Malaysian warships and aircraft.





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