scotartt on Sun, 10 Oct 1999 21:42:33 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> East Timor Digest (operational information and strategic analysis)

1500 GMT, 991009 Indonesia - Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove outlined a
three-point plan Oct. 9 that will help rebuild East Timor. According to
the plan, militia fighters must lay down their arms and the two warring
sides must reconcile their differences. Meanwhile, a total of 368 refugees
have been flown back to Dili by U.N. chartered flights. 

1455 GMT, 991009 Indonesia - Members of INTERFET stated that the
Indonesian Kopassus Special Forces brigade has been sending patrols near
the Balibo fortification in East Timor. Australian army Capt. Grant King
stated that the infiltrators were wearing night-vision scopes and were
equipped with sophisticated automatic weapons. Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove
issued a warning Oct. 9 to alert these groups that their presence is

1450 GMT, 991009 Indonesia/Philippines - Australia wants to negotiate
immunity for international peacekeeping forces deployed in East Timor,
Agence France Presse reported. Philippine diplomatic sources stated Oct. 8
that Australia has drafted a status of forces agreement, which will be
negotiated with the U.N. and Indonesia. The immunity would be for actions
committed in the line of duty. 


2245 GMT, 991006 - Reported China-Indonesia Ties Cause Concern

Indonesia's armed forces want to explore military ties with China possibly
to procure arms and spare parts, according to an upcoming Far Eastern
Economic Review report. A close aide to Indonesian President B.J. Habibie
said the overtures to China came after the cancellation of the
Indonesian-Australian defense agreement. Whether or not the overtures
occurred, the threat of Indonesian-Chinese ties will provoke heightened
concern over Southeast Asia, possibly forcing a U.S. policy decision. 

Improving military ties is a very rational move for both Indonesia and
China. Souring relations with the West mean Jakarta is losing its arms
sources. The Australia-Indonesia defense pact and arms sales were
shattered by tension between the two nations. Likewise, the United States
suspended arms sales in September. China, however, will supply Indonesia
with weaponry, without dictating Indonesia's internal policies. 

China would also benefit by gaining an extremely important Southeast Asian
ally. China has historically had limited influence in the region, while
Indonesia has a tremendous amount. A coordinated Chinese-Indonesian agenda
could dominate the geopolitics of the South China Sea. For example, such
an alliance would have a powerful say in regional issues such as the
Spratly Islands debate. 

The possibility of Chinese-Indonesian cooperation worries the West. 
Australia's relations with Indonesia were spoiled by the East Timor
intervention and the "Howard Doctrine." Despite Canberra's recently
improved relations with Beijing, an alliance would do nothing to allay
Australian concerns about its northern neighbor. 

As for the United States, one of its main interests in the region is
containing China. Stronger ties between Indonesia and China would not only
mean the loss of a strategic partner but it would also represent a
potential new rival for regional influence, an area historically dominated
by the United States. Indonesian-controlled shipping lanes are one concern
and it is still in the United States' best interest to be allied with the
fourth most populous nation in the world. 

The United States must now reevaluate its position. So far, U.S. policy
has attempted to balance two competing interests. On the global scale, it
tried to support Western efforts like INTERFET and the proposed U.N. human
rights inquiry in East Timor without cutting itself off from Jakarta.
Internally, the foreign policy debate rages between human rights advocates
and geopolitical strategists. 

The current threat makes clear that the United States can no longer
straddle the fence. An Indonesian-Chinese arrangement is a real
possibility and the United States must decide whether to abandon its
interventionist stance and attempt to woo Indonesia back or continue to
antagonize Jakarta at the cost of an adversarial relationship. 


Rhetoric and Reality: The Limits of Australia's Ambitions in Asia
September 26, 1999


Australia's new activist stance toward Asia is unrealistic, as the country
currently does not have the power projection capabilities to back up such
a claim. At the same time, this new policy alienates Australia from its
Asian neighbors, possibly pushing them closer to China and destroying the
benefits of Australia's previous policy of engagement. 


Australia has "a particular responsibility to do things above and beyond" 
in Asia, said Prime Minster John Howard, announcing the policy now being
referred to as the "Howard Doctrine." However, his vision of an expanded
Australian role in Asia is unrealistic and likely to hurt Australia's
relations with other countries in the region and with its powerful
neighbor to the north - China. 

In a Sept. 22 interview with The Bulletin, Howard announced that following
its leadership role in the multinational force in East Timor, Australia
would upgrade its defense forces and take a new place in Asia. "We have
displayed our responsibility, shouldering the burden we should have," he
said, adding that the East Timor action had "done a lot to cement
Australia 's place in the region." 

Howard clearly indicated his pro-Western orientation in the interview,
going so far as to suggest Australia should be the United States' "deputy" 
in the region. The statements were a far cry from the Asian principle of
noninterference, marking a significant change in foreign policy. Australia
had previously attempted to assert its identity as an Asian nation and
engage its neighbors, as seen in its dialogue with Myanmar and its support
for China's World Trade Organization bid. 

Is Australia even capable of assuming the new role it has chosen? Howard
has promised increased defense spending, but the effects of that spending
will take years to blossom. At present, Australia does not possess
sufficient power projection capabilities to carry out its new mission. 

Australia currently has some 60,000 personnel in its armed forces, with
plans to decrease that number to 50,000 in the next decade, though the
percentage of combat troops is to increase. Approximately 2,400 Australian
troops are in East Timor right now, and 2,000 more are expected to join
them. Despite this limited deployment, questions have already surfaced
about the possible need to reinstate the reserve forces. 

Australia also lacks naval resources, which are vital for operations in
Southeast Asia. Surface ships include three destroyers and eight frigates,
but no aircraft carriers. Its amphibious capabilities are limited to two
landing ships, one of which was to be decommissioned in 1998, the other
without beach landing capability. 

Although Australia's military is comparable or greater than most of its
neighbors, the majority of these forces are tied to land. Its lack of a
strong navy and its limited amphibious capabilities severely impede the
country's capacity to project force beyond its borders. Any attempt to
police the region will be severely handicapped without outside support. 

In spite of its dubious foundation, the Howard Doctrine has already begun
to alter regional relations. The reaction from other Asian leaders to
Howard's statement has been less than enthusiastic. Indonesian-Australian
relations, of course, are already strained to the breaking point, and it
appears as though the rest of the region is now backing away from

Thailand called Howard's plan "inappropriate" and asserted that the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) "must play the primary role
in Southeast Asia." Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Azmi Khalid was more
blunt. He told The Sun, "We are actually fed-up with their stance, that
they are sitting in a white chair and supervising the colored chairs." He
also asserted that Australia's role in East Timor does not necessarily
apply to the larger picture. 

These reactions are important indicators of regional sentiment, but the
combination of distance (with the exception of Indonesia) and similar
deficiencies in power projection make military conflict unlikely. Of
greater concern is whether the "Howard Doctrine" will cause Australia's
neighbors to lean toward China. 

Both China and Australia have improved their relations over the past few
years. Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Australia several weeks ago,
and both countries have exchanged defense ministerial visits. Although
China has not yet responded to Howard's statements, it is safe to say that
the improved Australian-U.S. relationship implicit in his words is
something China definitely does not want to see. This new policy threatens
the tenuous connections between the two. 

The Howard Doctrine made much of Australia's unique situation as a Western
civilization with links to Asia. Indeed, for much of the past decade
Australian diplomacy has focused on creating links with its Asian
neighbors and bridging a Western-Asian gap. However, Australian advocacy
for East Timor combined with Howard's statements have firmly placed
Australia in the Western camp. Australia is not yet able to undertake its
newly stated role, though it has already separated itself from the rest of
the region. Thus it is currently unable to reap the benefits of its new
policy or those of its previous policy of engagement


Security Apparatus Rifts Threaten Indonesian Stability
October 7, 1999


The ongoing sectarian violence in Indonesia's Ambon has claimed over 15
lives since Oct. 3.. Reports suggest that the latest violence was triggered
and sustained by factionalism among security forces. Ever widening splits
between factions in the military and police are contributing to the
tensions. Since Indonesia relies on the security apparatus to provide the
unifying force necessary to maintain cohesion, especially in this time of
political transition, a loss of that unity could seriously threaten
Indonesian stability. 


At least 16 people have been killed and over 75 injured since Oct. 3, in
the most recent outbreak of Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia's
Ambon.  Included among the dead was at least one combat engineer shot in
the head, reportedly by either a long-range sniper rifle or an automatic
weapon. Maj.  Gen. Suaidy Marasabessy, head of the Indonesian Military
(TNI) task force in the Ambon, suggested that military or police had been
involved in the shootings. He said in the Jakarta Post, "All the victims
died of gunshots to their heads. Only trained shooters could do that." 

The suggestion that the soldiers were shot by other members of the
security apparatus is not in itself surprising. Splits among factions in
the military, as well as tensions between the military and the police have
been apparent for some time. In September 1998, army cavalry troops
attacked a police barracks in West Kalimantan, leaving at least nine
injuries and three unconfirmed deaths. However, institutional differences
haven't only been revealed by violence. 

Prior to April 1999, the TNI and the Police (Polri) were a single entity,
the Armed Forces of Indonesia (ABRI). Following the downfall of former
President Suharto, a plan was contrived for the gradual separation of the
TNI and Polri, allowing both to focus on individual security roles.
Despite the official distancing, there are signs that the tensions between
the forces remain high. 

In East Timor, following the independence referendum but prior to the
arrival of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET), reports
indicated that Polri units were being forced by the TNI to participate in
- or at least ignore - assaults on pro-independence supporters in the
province. While it is likely that some elements of Polri were involved
willingly, it is apparent that institutional tensions remain. 

In addition to the divisions between the TNI and the Polri, there are
splits and factions within the TNI itself. In Ambon, Christian
representatives are calling for all members of the security apparatus to
leave, with the exception of marines, who are part of the TNI. This was in
part triggered by allegations that military-backed militia or members of
the Police Elite Mobile Brigade (Brimob) were siding with or even leading
the Muslims in their attacks on Christian homes and buildings. The
marines, on the other hand, were siding with the Christians. 

The Indonesian marines have traditionally been seen as more sympathetic to
the people than either the Polri or the rest of the TNI. This has also
applied to the navy, such as when several retired officers joined together
as early backers of the Indonesian Democratic Struggle Party (PDI-P). The
TNI, then, aside from working to redefine its relation with Polri, is also
faced with an ongoing split among its own ranks. 

This poses a particular problem for Indonesia. With the government in a
state of transition, and no obvious strong leader for the nation to rally
around, the armed forces remain the one institution offering a
cross-regional and cross-cultural stabilizing force. Now even this could
be jeopardized, as the military and police have so far been unable to
reconcile their differences and as military factions back different
political agendas. 

The Indonesian presidential election is two weeks away, and there is still
no clear favorite, though Muslim candidate Abdurrahman Wahid seems the
most likely choice. However, PDI-P candidate Megawati Sukarnoputri, who
claims to have the people's mandate, has suggested that she and her party
will walk out of parliament if she isn't given the presidency. Further,
PDI-P has suggested it will take its case back to the street. 

Coupled with the ongoing student demonstrations, the next few weeks
promise to test the ability of the military to remain a cohesive force for
the unity of Indonesia. The shootings in Ambon and the potential for split
political allegiance among military factions do not bode well for
Indonesia 's future.  1998, 1999 Stratfor, Inc. All rights reserved.

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