Indonesia’s impressive political and economic development in recent years has fuelled expectations that Australia’s much larger neighbour could join the ranks of the world’s ten largest economies as early as 2030. While there are good reasons to caution against such long-term predictions, there’s a high likelihood that Indonesia will become stronger relative to Australia. Consequently, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made the relationship with Indonesia a top foreign policy priority. In this context, Indonesia’s ambitious plans to modernise its armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) over the next 10 to 15 years, including a 274-ship ‘green-water navy’, 10 fighter squadrons and 12 new diesel–electric submarines, are of key interest for Australia. While Indonesia has had similar ambitions in the past, this time the match between resources and ambitions could be closer.
Dr Benjamin Schreer examines the TNI's current modernisation, including the degree to which the capability balance between the ADF and the TNI could shift; the degree to which the TNI will strengthen its capacity to defend the Indonesian archipelago and contribute to regional security; and the implications of a relative shift in Indonesia’s military power for the Australia–Indonesia defence relationship.