JAKARTA --- Amid a rapidly changing regional security environment, Indonesia, one of the most powerful military countries in Southeast Asia, has drastically shifted the main focus of its defense strategy.
Having been dominated by the army for decades, the Indonesian National Armed Forces' air and marine defenses are now being strengthened in response to Beijing's push into the South China Sea and the growing threat posed by cross-border terrorism.
On Thursday, the National Armed Forces held a parade marking their 72nd anniversary at the port of Cilegon in Banten Province on the western tip of Java. Taking center stage was the diesel-electric attack submarine KRI Nagapasa-403, the country's third sub.
An Apache Guardian attack helicopter, due to be supplied to the armed forces, was another piece of state-of-the-art equipment on display. The new helicopter will also be used for counter-piracy operations, according to a military officer.
Demonstration flights of F-16 and SU-30 fighters were also performed in an event designed to showcase the country's developing air and marine defense capabilities. President Joko Widodo said, "The Indonesian Armed Forces will be the strongest and best equipped military in Southeast Asia."
Since declaring independence in 1945, Indonesia has largely managed to avoid full-scale conflict with another country -- the only exception other than the struggle against Dutch colonial rule was a brief confrontation with Malaysia during the years under Sukarno, the country's first president.
The country has, however, often relied on the army to keep the peace domestically and quell secessionist movements. Troops have been sent to put down pro-independence uprisings in Aceh in northern Sumatra as well as on the western part of New Guinea Island that belongs to Indonesia.
The circumstances, along with resistance leader Sudirman exerting his influence as the first commander-in-chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces, have meant the navy and air force have played second fiddle in the Indonesian military since independence.
Successive political leaders have come from army backgrounds, not least Suharto, whose dictatorship lasted more than 30 years, and former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Today, the army accounts for nearly 80% of the country's 400,000 military personnel. (end of excerpt)
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