“A possible embargo has always been a reason for the TNI [Indonesian armed forces] to feel worried when it wants to procure weapons from overseas”, Indonesian commander–in-chief Agus Suhartono said in January. Indonesia had to deal with European and American arms embargo’s for a many years, as a consequence of massive human rights violations in East Timor, Papua and Aceh. For that reason, the commander-in-chief urged his government to target a broader supply base, not depending on just a few supplying countries.
As a result of this supplier diversification, Indonesia is working with China on surface to surface missiles, with South Korea on submarines and with Russia on new Sukhoi fighter aircraft. Alarmed by the prospect of Asian competitors winning valuable deals over western companies, Europe and the US are more and more pushing aside their concerns over human rights and are more willing to grant export licenses for arms to Indonesia.
With the EU and US cutting orders as part of austerity measures, Indonesia’s booming budget makes it an attractive alternative. Indonesia’s procurement budget is expected to rise 71 per cent between 2011 and 2015, from 1.25 to 2.14 billion US dollar a year.
One of the major benificiaries of the increasingly flexible European export policy – as well as Indonesia’s increasing budget – is EADS, the pan-European arms producer that makes almost anything military that flies through the sky: satellites, missiles, fixed-wing and rotor aircraft, unmanned as well as manned. Over the past year it has secured two major deals with Indonesia, including nine C295 transport aircraft and six EC725 ‘combat search and rescue helicopters’.
The C295 transporter is perfectly suitable for landing on unpaved air strips, making it very useful on Indonesia’s many islands which not always have a tarmac landing strip. Another attractive feature of the contract signed 15 February is the potential for Indonesian Aerospace to manufacture part of the order itself. Also it may co-produce potential future orders from other Asia-Pacific customers. The C295s will be delivered between 2012 and 2014 and replace ageing Fokker F27 aircraft.
The EC725 or ‘Super Cougar’ helicopter is described by Eurocopter – the helicopter branch of EADS – as a “combat proven multi-role helicopter”, with war experience in Afghanistan. It can be used as a troop transporter and can be fitted with each two rocket launchers, cannons and machine guns.
In an attempt to sell Indonesia its largest type military transport aircraft, EADS sent an Airbus Military A400M to Halim airbase near Jakarta in April, as part of a promotional tour around Asia.
Human rights and peace activists continue to be concerned about this. In the US, the potential sale of Apache attack helicopters by arms manufacturer Boeing has met with considerable opposition.
Last month ninety organisations urged the Obama administration not to agree with the sale of eight of these ‘flying tanks’.
According to the organisations, “the heavily-armed AH-64 is a highly lethal weapon which can be used to escalate conflict within Indonesia and in West Papua. These aircraft will substantially augment the TNI’s capacity to prosecute its “sweep operations” in West Papua and thereby, almost certainly lead to increased suffering among the civilian populations long victimized by such operations. TNI “sweep operations,” including several now underway in the Central Highlands region of West Papua, involve attacks on villages. Homes churches and public buildings. These assaults, purportedly to eliminate the poorly armed Papuan armed resistance, force innocent villagers from their homes. Papuan civilians either flee the attacks to neighboring villages or into the surrounding forests where many die or face starvation, cut off from access to their gardens, shelter, and medical care.”
With the rapidly approaching annual shareholdersmeeting of EADS this is the right time to question the military sales to Indonesia of this European arms manufacturer. At the EADS AGM, which will be held in Amsterdam on 31 May, Campagne tegen Wapenhandel will ask its directors how they think about the culture of impunity, mass corruption and sustained human rights abuses by the Indonesian armed forces.
See also our short movie Profiting from arms trade. EADS 2012.
[FS, 7 May 2012]