Indonesia aiming for Leopard tanks

The Indonesian army has received a major budget boost to modernise its weaponry. As part of the programme the army has already agreed on the purchase of 100 Leopard 2 A6 tanks for which $280 million is available, according to Indonesian media sources.

The Indonesian army is specifically looking at Europe where surplus equipment has become available in large quantities and relatively cheap. Many European armies are reducing their inventories of arms as a consequence of austerity measures.
“What does the reduction mean? That means they will sell their weaponry and at low prices,” Indonesia’s Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said on Thursday after a Cabinet meeting on the issue. The government is mulling over purchasing weaponry from France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain. A decision is expected within two weeks.

Leopards are available from Germany and the Netherlands. The Dutch government retired its 119-piece Leopard tank fleet earlier this year, together with a number of Cougar helicopters and F-16 fighter jets.
With Germany only offering older Leopard versions, the Netherlands appears to be the only country with the advanced 2A6 version for sale.

For any sale to a third country permission from the Germany, the producing country, is necessary.
Back in the mid-1990s a deal with Botswana for 50 Leopard-1 tanks ran in trouble as Germany refused to grant permission under pressure from neighbouring Namibia.

Whatever way, any sale of tanks to Indonesia is not in line with Dutch policy not to supply main weapon systems to its land forces. The well-documented history of army violence against the people in Aceh, East-Timor and Papua was always a reason not to sell arms to the land forces.
Over the past year several cases of army violence against Papua’s came to light.
Amnesty International’s Josef Benedict said on Tuesday that a ban on international non-government organisations and the foreign media in the eastern province of Papua was allowing security forces to operate under a “culture of impunity”. “They are totally above the law,” he told Australian news agency AAP. “We continue to receive credible reports of excessive use of force and firearms, as well as reports of torture by the Indonesian security forces.”
Therefore, there is no reason to change Dutch arms export restrictions towards Indonesia.

Indonesia’s modernisation plans also come amidst of growing fears for military escalation in the region.
In a speech at the University of Zurich EU President Herman Van Rompuy warned last week that the Asia-Pacific region is showing signs of militarisation that could lead to an arms race.
“Whereas Europe used to be the most dangerous continent in the past century… the focus of security analysts and hard power strategic planners has recently moved towards developments in Asia and the Pacific,” said Van Rompuy.

Ironically, pressure on European military budgets contributes to a build-up of both new and surplus arms outside Europe, with governments and industry struggling to get rid of their weapons in an increasingly competitive market.

[FS, 16 Nov 2011]