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Indonesia to reduce dependency on other countries for arms

Australian ABC news, 25 Mar 00

President Abdurrahman Wahid wants Indonesia to diversify its weapons sourcing and move away from dependence on the United States.

"We have been very dependent on one side, not only economically dependent but also in arms; we have been made dependent on the United States, therefore I have always thought from the start, reduce that dependence on one single side," Dr Wahid said.

Speaking while visiting the headquarters of the Air Force Special Command in Bandung, West Java, Dr Wahid said Indonesia had many industries which could be upgraded with little effort to produce modern weapons.

He cited the Nusantara state aircraft industry, Dahana, a state company that produces explosives, national shipyard company PT PAL and ammunition and weapon-maker PT Pindad.

"We have only been able to buy so far with loans and this should no longer be allowed," Dr Wahid said.

"We must have our own military industry," he said.

He says Indonesia should not worry about any backlash should Jakarta reduce its dependence on Washington for arms.

"They also need us. Without us, security in this region is not guaranteed," he said.


Indonesia's dependence on US arms was most evident in its air force, which relies on US-made F-16s as its backbone, but Jakarta has already begun to diversify buying two squadrons of British-made Hawks.

In May 1997, Indonesia also cancelled the planned purchase of nine F-16s after the sale was blocked by the US congress over Indonesia's human rights record.

Jakarta then began to look to Russia as an alterntive source, but any purchase had to be postponed because of the economic crisis that hit Indonesia and several other Asian countries.

Wahid pledged to work to modernise the equipment and arms for the air force after being told the 3,000 strong special airforce command was mostly equiped with weaponry dating back to the 1950s.

He also said that in view of the importance of safeguarding Indonesia's wide expanse of air territory, the special air force command should be expanded.

"We have so many airports but the forces are so small, and because of this we should increase (the number of troops) to 6,000," he said, without giving details on the number of airport or airbases the country has.

"The Special Airforce Command has the heavy duty of safeguarding the Indonesian sovereignty over its airspace and therefore we should accord some attention to it.

"Hopefully, we have enough money for that," he said.

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