In a move that will significantly shore up bilateral military ties, India has agreed to train and support the Indonesian Air Force in operating its fleet of Russian Sukhoi fighter jets. It will shortly send a high-level team to work out the details of a support package.
While India had a similar agreement with Malaysia that also operates the fighter jets, the decision to cooperate in training, technical help and spares support with Indonesia has been taken during the ongoing visit of Defence Minister A K Antony to Jakarta.
The Indonesian Air Force currently operates both the Su 27 and Su 30 fighters and will eventually have 16 of them in service, if more orders are not placed.
In the past, Jakarta has had a pact with China to train its pilots and provide technical support for the fighter fleet.
Given that India also operates the fighters and will have one of the largest fleets in service once all the 272 jets enter service, Jakarta has been interested in seeking New Delhi’s assistance for technical support and training.
In his interaction with top Indonesian officials in which the issue came up, Antony has said that a “high-level Indian Air Force team would be sent to finalise details of training and spares support package”. The team, Antony conveyed, will be sent across “once the Indonesian Air Force firms up its requirements”.
While the details will be worked out, the package is likely to involve a maintenance contract for the aircraft to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which is producing and maintaining the Indian fleet of the fighters. In 2007, India had embarked on a similar deal with Malaysia to train its pilots and weapon operators on their Su 30 MKMs.
Besides the Air Force cooperation, India and Indonesia deliberated on several issues of mutual interest and decided to “significantly enhance their defence cooperation”, a defence ministry spokesperson said. “The two sides exchanged views on issues relating to regional and global security, bilateral exercises involving Services, training, co-production of defence equipment and ammunitions and visits at high levels,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.
During his visit, Antony spoke at length on ‘power rivalries’ in the Indian Ocean Region and said that although conducted in local theatres, their impact is felt in the wider regional arena too.
“Our view is that all countries should exercise restraint and resolve the issue through dialogues according to principles of international law,” he commented on the South China Sea dispute.
Antony is leading a high-level delegation to Jakarta that includes Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, CISC Vice Admiral SPS Cheema, C-in-C Andaman & Nicobar Command Lt Gen NC Marwah and DG Ordnance Factory Board SK Beri.