Sharing proximity to some of the world’s busiest waterways and a vision for stronger defense collaboration, Indonesia and Singapore are increasing joint military training and exercises.

The enhanced cooperation includes a recent bilateral mine-clearing naval exercise and Singapore’s participation in the Super Garuda Shield exercise hosted by Indonesia, and it follows an expanded defense cooperation framework established in early 2022.

“The Indonesian Ministry of Defense fully supports the strong defense cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore, which is built on the principles of equality, mutual benefit and respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law,” Indonesian Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Muhammad Herindra said.

Herindra’s remarks came in a news release from the Defense Ministry, known as Kemhan, following his August 18, 2022, meeting with the Singaporean Chief of Navy Rear Adm. Aaron Beng in Jakarta, Indonesia, also attended by Adm. Yudo Margono, the Indonesian Navy’s chief of staff.
Growing naval cooperation between the Indo-Pacific countries was discussed as part of efforts to strengthen defense ties, the release said.

The release emphasized the importance of the nations’ Defense Cooperation Agreement signed January 25, 2022, which allows Singapore to continue conducting military training and drills in Indonesia.

In mid-August 2022, the nations’ navies conducted Joint Minex Pandu, a mine-countermeasure and clearance diving exercise, reported Singapore’s Ministry of Defence, known as MINDEF. It was held in Singapore and in and around the nearby Indonesian island of Batam. Singapore deployed the RSS Bedok and RSS Punggol, and personnel from its special forces’ Naval Diving Unit. Indonesia deployed the KRI Pulau Rengat and KRI Pulau Rupat, along with its dive team.

“Indonesia and Singapore are both maritime nations. We are close neighbors and share a common maritime border. Our ships meet each other at sea every day,” Col. Rinson Chua, deputy commander of Singapore’s Maritime Security Command, said at the exercise’s launch. “Our continued commitment to this important bilateral exercise and the increase in scope and complexity of the exercise [are] testament to the deep level of trust and collaboration between both of our navies.”

Singapore also sent Army and Navy personnel and assets for the first time to participate in Garuda Shield, hosted by Indonesia in August 2022. Renamed Super Garuda Shield to reflect its expansion from a Indonesian-U.S. exercise, the multilateral drills involved the armed forces of 14 countries, plus observers from three nations. (Pictured: Republic of Singapore Navy, Indonesian Navy and U.S. Navy ships sail together during Garuda Shield.)

During the exercise, multiple Indonesian and U.S. vessels, as well as a landing ship and frigate from the Singaporean Navy, participated in maneuvers and communication drills.

Since 1974, the Indonesian and Singaporean navies have held 26 iterations of the bilateral Exercise Eagle Indopura, according to MINDEF. Held most recently in September 2021, the exercise involved gunnery firings, communication and maneuvering drills, and a search-and-rescue exercise.
Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.