Wednesday, August 31, 2016

CORRUPTION IN INDONESIA: LOW-RISK AND HIGH-REWARD CRIME? A big question lingers as to why Indonesia, whoever the president is, seems unable to diminish corruption

Defined broadly as the misuse of power by a public official for private gains, corruption has characterized every administration ever since this country was born 71 years ago, despite differing modus operandi and actors.

Simply put, corruption has become entrenched in our daily lives regardless of the various efforts to combat it. The failure to eradicate corruption indicates a fundamental problem with the anticorruption strategy we have implemented.

The easiest way to place blame in our inability to beat corruption may lie with the lack of political will. It is true that every administration — Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s is no exception — the deficit of political will has contributed to the emergence of bad governance.

It took Jokowi, for instance, almost one year to resolve the latest standoff between the police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). As a result, there has been a significant decline in the number of cases the KPK has managed to unveil. At the same time, Jokowi also has missed the opportunity to tackle police corruption as his political gesture was not in favor of the KPK and the public in general during the conflict.

However, in order to correctly analyze the groundwork of our anticorruption campaign we need to elaborate in what way does political will not exist and is there any country whose political leader does show ambition in cracking down on corruption. For the latter, we can easily refer to neighboring Singapore, which since 1985 has always scored high on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Among Asian countries, Singapore is always perceived as the least corrupt.  

However, in fact, corruption used to threaten Singapore when under British rule as widespread bribery involved police officers, custom officials and public servants. Corruption was practically the way of life of the nation until the People Action Party (PAP) came to power in 1960 and started to treat corruption as low reward and high risk (Quah, 2001).

Singapore under the PAP began to treat corruption eradication as a priority agenda. Of course comparing Singapore with Indonesia is unfair because Singapore is only a city-state. But the political will to severely punish corruption and turn this dirty behavior into a high-risk activity is an excellent example for Indonesian politicians.

Unlike Singapore, Indonesia gives special treatment to graft convicts. For example, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly quite recently proposed a revision to the government regulation on the rights of criminals, including graft convicts. Based on the minister’s draft, graft convicts have the right to remission and conditional release as long as they show good behavior. He says reducing prison terms of convicts, including corruptors, will help solve overcapacity facing our prisons.

The draft, however, will eliminate the existing condition for remission that currently is given only to corruption convicts who help law enforcers as justice collaborators. The role of justice collaborators is crucial as they can lead investigators to the masterminds of corruption.

The idea to ease procedures of remission for corrupt public officials without specific conditions has undermined public expectation for a better anticorruption strategy. It also exacerbates the ugly fact that judges tend to hand down light, rather than maximum, sentences to corruption convicts.

A study by Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) earlier this year found that imprisonment for graft convicts averaged only 2.2 years. With corruption convicts entitled to remission on several national holidays such as Christmas, Idul Fitri, Independence Day, National Heroes Day, etc. simply because of “good behavior”, they are able to regain freedom even faster.

If President Jokowi approves such a draft it can be said that he simply has no spirit for defeating corruption. Worse still, it will prove right public suspicion of the President’s incapability of withstanding short-term political interests that often characterizes public policy and decision-making processes in this country.

Instead of providing special treatment to corruption convicts, the government should do what it takes to maximize deterrence on potential fraudsters by implementing the stolen-asset recovery policy that has eluded Indonesia. The ICW study revealed that less than half the total state losses resulting from corruption could be rescued by enforcing the policy. The amount does not include the budget spent on investigations into each corruption cases, however.

The KPK is an exception in the fight against graft as it also enforces the Antimoney Laundering Law to trace as many assets controlled by a suspect as possible. The KPK’s success in seizing more than Rp 250 billion (US$19.23 million) worth of assets from graft convict Fuad Amin, a former Bangkalan regent in East Java, shows its seriousness in tackling corruption.

It’s better for the government to follow the lead of utilizing the best practices in eradicating corruption, which is treating corruption as a high risk, low-reward crime, not the other way around.

The writer Adnan Topan Husodo  is the coordinator of  Indonesia Corruption Watch.

Yes, Russia's Military Is Training for a 'Mega War.'

The latest series of military exercises in Russia have unnerved its Western neighbors, who are concerned that Russia may be preparing for a military campaign. The Russian military is indeed preparing for war, but that does not mean the Kremlin actually plans to initiate one anytime soon. Rather, the current and pending exercises are meant to, well, exercise the troops, for all contingencies, including worst-case scenarios, but also to send a signal to potential adversaries and “disloyal” neighbors.

These countries, of course, remember vividly how less than a month after conducting the Kavkaz-2008, or Caucasus-2008, exercises in July of that year Russian armed forces marched into South Ossetia to rout Georgia as it attempted to retake its separatist province by force. Then, in spring 2014, Russia’s military-political leadership used one of the so-called surprise selective checks of its armed forces’ combat readiness to deploy the troops needed to facilitate the taking of Crimea.

No wonder each time Moscow decides to hold a major snap check or regular drill along Russia’s western or southwestern flank, such maneuvers generate concern in some of the countries located along those borders. The latest surprise check—launched August 25 on territories comprising Russia’s Southern, Western and Central military districts—was no exception.

Russia’s Defense Ministry claims that the ongoing inspection of combat readiness of eight thousand soldiers and their equipment, including units located in Crimea and South Ossetia, is needed to ascertain whether the forces are ready for the strategic Kavkaz-2016 exercise, set to begin in mid-September. Moreover, even though the declared number of servicemen participating in the August 25-31 snap inspection is less than the nine thousand that makes military drills “subject to notification” under OSCE’s so-called Vienna Document, Russia’s MoD said it had nonetheless notified military attaches posted in Moscow about the exercise. The ministry has also invited foreign military attaches to attend Kavkaz-2016.

Russian assurances about the inspection’s goals have failed to assuage concerns in Kyiv, Brussels and Washington. Even before the latest snap check began, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko expressed concerns that Russia may be planning a “full-scale invasion.” The United States has also voiced reservations: “We hope that Russia will comply with all relevant obligations and commitments under existing agreements on arms control and confidence measures to provide their neighbors with guarantees and transparency concerning the scale and nature of these activities," Pentagon representative Michelle Baldanza was quoted as saying Aug. 25, the first day of the check. Some Western media outlets chose to express their concern over Russia’s latest war-gaming in much starker terms: “Putin launches massive military operation amid fears Russia wants mega war,” screamed a headline in Britain’s Express tabloid.

As stated above, I believe the Russian military is indeed preparing for an all-out war. However, that is what generals in all countries do. It is their job to prepare for worst-case scenarios and large-scale strategic exercises are meant to test the military’s readiness for such a development. However, that does not mean that Russia’s military-political leadership necessarily wants that scenario to materialize. You do not invite foreign military attaches accredited in your capital to attend strategic drills if you want to launch another covert campaign on the scale of Crimea or a “mega-war” against NATO. Observers can, of course, be kept out of areas of covert deployments, but it would take an exceptional degree of arrogance to turn an exercise to which you have invited diplomats into an act of aggression. Nor do you announce the location and scale of drills that you mean to use to conceal preparations for war almost a year before they take place (which is the case with Caucasus-2016, announced in December 2015, giving your competitors plenty of time to train their technical and human intelligence assets onto the area—not to mention the coverage from local Twitterati.

The fact is that the Russian military has been holding strategic exercises every year since the Russian economy rebounded from the lows of the early 1990s, and it is likely to continue these—as well as the snap checks of combat readiness, which were reintroduced in 2013—for as long as it can afford them. Russian generals love to train and I cannot blame them: As one of my Harvard Kennedy School classmates observed back in 2002, half-jokingly, the U.S. military dislikes wars because that distracts them for training for them. Russian generals may hold a similar view.

These annual strategic exercises take place in different regions and their names reflect that: Zapad-2013 (West-2013), Vostok-2014 (East-2014), Tsentr-2015 (Center-2015), Kavkaz-2016 (Caucasus-2016). If anything, this rotation of locations shows that Russian strategists believe their armed forces need to be prepared for a strategic conflict from any direction, be it with NATO or China. But, again, preparing for such a conflict does not mean the Kremlin is planning to initiate one without any of the following substantive reasons (or combination of such reasons). Russia or its allies or clients would have to be attacked (as was the case in the 2008 war with Georgia) or face the ouster of a ruling regime friendly to Russia (the ongoing campaign in Syria), or Russia’s leadership would have to sense that one of its post-Soviet neighbors may “escape” to what Moscow sees as a hostile alliance (again the 2008 war with Georgia and also the 2014 conflict with Ukraine). Anyone who is trying to gauge whether Russia would resort to force should keep an eye on whether any of these preconditions emerge. Moscow has also cited massive violations of the basic rights of Russian-speaking minorities as one reason Russian forces may intervene, though so far that has been a pretext rather than a genuine cause, as Crimea has shown.

There is, of course, always room for greater transparency and Russia’s neighbors and the international community as a whole would feel more reassured if Moscow were to provide more details on all upcoming exercises, including snap checks, and grant observers access to more of them. Reviving arms control and verification in Europe with Russia’s participation and under the aegis of the OSCE, as called for recently by German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, would be one step in the right direction. However, while helpful, greater transparency and arms control will not qualitatively diminish the chance of a conflict. That possibility will continue to loom large as long as the underlying causes of potential conflict are not addressed, such as Russia’s concerns about NATO’s expansion to the post-Soviet space. As long as that perceived threat persists, Russia will continue to have its forces trained for a major conflict in the west and southwest and will keep using these trainings to deter both post-Soviet neighbors and the West from pursuing membership in Western alliances and granting such membership respectively.

The way I propose to address Russia’s concerns vis-à-vis Western alliances and the West’s concerns vis-à-vis Russia would be for OSCE members to sign a new European security charter. This charter would address Russia’s concern by requiring any further expansion of the continent’s military alliances to get the consent of three-fourths of the signatories – a difficult hurdle to clear, by my count. The charter would also reaffirm OSCE members’ pledges to respect each other’s territorial integrity and refrain from any kind of overt or covert action to change borders in Europe and would obligate them to resolve their existing territorial disputes in peaceful ways. Such a pledge by Russia could help alleviate concerns over not only the Baltic States but also Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, both among those states and among their Western partners. The charter would feature specific, enforceable mechanisms for managing conflicts, including warning systems to identify and defuse tensions in their early stages. More importantly, the document would entail responsibility for violators—crucial in alleviating concerns about Russia’s future behavior.

If there is currently consensus on any issue in Moscow, Brussels, Washington and Kyiv, it is that post-Cold War Europe’s security architecture is broken and needs to be repaired before it produces another deadly armed conflict like that in former Yugoslavia, Georgia and Ukraine. The proposed charter could be a good way to start repairing or even rebuilding that architecture before it is too late.

Simon Saradzhyan is director of Russia Matters, which is a joint project of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Image: Competitors in the Tank Biathlon event of the Russian-hosted International Army Games, 2016. Russian government photo.

The real meaning of Thailand’s constitutional referendum - no sense a free and fair referendum. The military junta banned any campaigning

Yet the result of the referendum is less conclusive than it would appear.

The turnout was 59 per cent, less than the 80 per cent the military had hoped for, and below the average turnout for the last six general elections, which pro-Thaksin political parties have consistently won. But it was slightly higher than the turnout for the 2007 referendum (58 per cent). And the ‘yes’ vote increased by 2 per cent, while the ‘no’ vote decreased by almost 4 per cent.

While no evidence of electoral fraud has been uncovered, this was in no sense a free and fair referendum. The military junta banned any campaigning. The ‘Vote No’ camp never had a chance to put their case to the people. Scores of people who defied the ban were arrested, charged and some imprisoned. Because of the ban many voters did not know what was actually in the constitution. Meanwhile the regime made it clear through its control of the mass media and its influence over the bureaucracy that it expected the constitution to be passed.

Under such favourable circumstances the 36 per cent of eligible voters who supported the draft constitution is hardly a ringing endorsement of the constitution or its military junta backers.

Yet it is not an insubstantial figure either. So how can we explain the strength of an apparently antidemocratic vote?

It is important to acknowledge that, unlike during the period from the 1950s to the 1980s, the Thai military today does not rule in its own right. It has a substantial social base of support. It is backed to varying degrees by middle and upper-class Thais, the powerful bureaucracy, the judiciary, university administrations and faculty, and large Sino–Thai corporations. For historical reasons, it also has significant support in the upper and middle region of southern Thailand.

The Thai military’s real role today is as the armed vanguard of what the political scientist Fred Riggs famously coined ‘the bureaucratic polity’ that has dominated the Thai state since the 1950s. Members of the bureaucratic polity have historically seen themselves as serving the king, not as ‘civil servants’. Indeed the Thai word for bureaucrat, kha ratchakan, literally means, ‘the king’s servant’.

The bureaucratic polity ensures that the lion’s share of state revenue is spent on Bangkok. The best schools, universities, hospitals, as well as job opportunities are all found there. Democratisation of Thai politics threatens this. It is no wonder that the Bangkok middle and upper classes are so opposed to it.

These antidemocratic tendencies also have religious and cultural roots.

The prominent place of the kha ratchakan in Thai society receives a subtle religious justification through the ancient Buddhist doctrine of ‘merit’ (bun). The poor are poor because of their lesser merit — that is, accumulation of good deeds in past and present lives. Morally, they are inferior to the wealthy.

The conception that the poor have low merit slips easily into the middle class’s biggest gripe about democratic politics: the scourge of corruption. Politicians, because they represent these low merit/corrupt people, cannot escape the stain of corruption. Majoritarian democracy — rule by ‘the people’ — is problematic in Buddhist terms, since it means rule by people of low merit. By contrast, since the military and bureaucrats serve the king, the most meritorious being in the kingdom, they rank highly in the moral hierarchy. Of course, not all Thais are fervent Buddhists, but these ideas are still influential.

The need for government by ‘good people’ has been the rallying cry of the conservative elite since the crisis began in 2006. The preamble to the draft constitution explicitly states that it is designed to prevent people of ‘no morals’ from taking power in the country.

There is also an ethnic dimension to this Bangkok–provincial political cleavage. As historian Chris Baker has pointed out, the predominantly Sino–Thai middle class has ‘almost no affinity with rural Thailand’. For many Sino–Thai, the countryside is ‘unknown and hence fearsome’. This fear intensified in April–May 2010, when over 100,000 Red Shirt protesters, many from the northeast and north, marched into Bangkok with the aim of pressuring the elite-installed government to resign. The protests were bloodily suppressed by the military with up to 100 killed and thousands injured. One of the military leaders in charge of the crackdown, General Prayut Chan-ocha, led the 2014 coup and is now prime minister.

This is Thailand’s 20th constitution in 84 years. Each constitution has an average life of just over four years. The frequency with which constitutions have been torn up following military coups has degraded their significance. Rather than setting in stone for perpetuity the basic legal framework for a nation, constitutions are almost always merely the attempt by the coup group and their backers to legally extend the authority they have won through force of arms.

But the debate over this particular constitution comes at a unique moment in Thailand’s modern political development. After 70 years on the throne, the reign of King Bhumibol is coming to an end. Since the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932, two competing conceptions of political legitimacy have been at war with each other. One holds that legitimate power lies with the monarch and is administered by his royal officials and defended by the military; the other, that it derives from the people and is exercised by their elected political representatives. This conflict has never been resolved.

Can the political domination of the bureaucratic polity survive the succession? Will the legitimacy that the monarchy confers on it and its military protectors continue under the new king? The level of repression since the 2014 coup, the draft constitution’s attempt to legally hobble any elected government and shore up bureaucratic power, and the lengths to which the regime has gone to force the referendum through, all suggest that the regime and its backers are far from certain.

Given all this, it is unlikely that this constitution will last much longer than its predecessors.

Dr Patrick Jory is a Senior Lecturer in Southeast Asian History at the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of Queensland.

The Duterte paradox - Is the Philippines heading towards developmental authoritarianism?


This May, tough-talking and controversial former mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, romped to victory in the Philippines presidential elections. Before his win, Duterte had promised to eradicate the Philippines’ endemic crime and corruption, one of the highest in Asia, within 60 days.  Now he is making good on his campaign claim by waging a bloody anti-drug war in a country where a big chunk of the population lives in poverty.

The spate of extra-judicial killings, which Philippines media now number as more than 1,200, since he assumed the presidency in July has divided the nation. It has also generated condemnation from within and outside the Philippines, including the United Nations and human rights bodies.

Despite tumultuous political developments, since it toppled the Marcos dictatorship in the People Power revolution of 1986 the Philippines has emerged as a bright spot for democracy in Asia. It has also delivered impressive economic development averaging six per cent GDP growth each year. However, it should be noted that the rule of law still lags behind the country’s democratic development.

The past government of President Benigno Aquino Jr also concluded peace negotiations with the biggest Muslim insurgency group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has been waging an insurgency in Mindanao since 1969. The international community has widely supported the peace deal. Can these developments be sustained under Duterte?

The charismatic ‘President Rody’, as he is called by many Filipinos, appears to be an enigma, however. Whether Duterte’s first 100 days are a prelude to entrenching an authoritarian regime is a key question for both academics and observers. His rule also represents a paradox.

Duterte’s brutal policy on drugs is incomprehensible if compared to his other governance and policy reforms. For example, he has appointed diverse and highly qualified ministerial personnel from all political spectrum, the academe, and the private sector.

The new president also signed the freedom of information directive to the executive department that had eluded past administrations. Duterte is seeking a more comprehensive peace settlement with communist rebels and other Muslim insurgent groups.

Duterte’s administration is also going after ‘oligarchs’ who have interfered or manipulated Philippine politics, the big tax cheats, and recently an over-blown bureaucracy teeming with political appointees.

Newly-elected members of the Philippine Congress are looking into a federal system of government. The President has also shown restraint in dealing with China even after the Philippines’ win in the arbitration tribunal on the South China Sea issue.

Beyond Duterte’s war on drugs, domestic and foreign businesses are applauding the administration’s comprehensive economic agenda. Expansion of businesses and faster growth are expected under the ‘iron watch’ of the President.

How do we assess the new Philippine presidency and how will his policy directions affect the country’s political and economic fortunes?  What does it mean for democracies’ future in the Philippines and the region?

And after 70 years of bilateral ties, how can Australian engage constructively with the Duterte administration in fostering values of democracy, the rule of law, inclusive growth, and the promotion of peace and stability in Asia?

These are all crucial issues, and each will be examined by experts, academics, and policy makers in the two-day Philippine Update conference taking place at the Australian National University on 2-3 September.

Bringing together experts from around the world, the conference will take stock of political, economic and social developments of the previous administration and the Philippines’ prospects under Rodrigo Duterte.

And for good reason – the paradox of Rodrigo Duterte may be one of the most important puzzles the Philippines, the region, and Australia need to solve in coming years.

Dr Imelda Deinla is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Regulation and Global Governance, the Australian National University, and co-convenor of the 2016 Philippine Update taking place 2-3 September. 


Russia's Sukhoi Super 30: The Outlook for India’s Ultra-Advanced Fighter Fleet

Indications in recent months suggest that the upgrade program for India’s fleet of Su-30MKI fighters is finally gathering pace. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has so far placed orders for 272 aircraft, of which 50 were delivered by Russia in 2002-2004 and 2007. Another 222 are to be supplied by the HAL Corporation; production under Russian license began at HAL’s Indian facilities in 2004. So far, more than 200 planes have already been delivered, and the Su-30MKI is the most numerous of the multirole fighters currently in service with the IAF.

Even though the Su-30MKI is one of the most advanced of the Generation 4+ fighters in service with the IAF, the need for its upgrade is becoming ever more obvious. The first of the planes built to the current specification were delivered to India back in 2004. Since then, a lot of new technology has become available in Russia, India, and other markets, including advanced new radars, air-launched missiles and bombs. Retrofitting the plane with this new hardware can make it much more capable. In fact, the Su-30 platform itself is extremely well suited for all kinds of upgrades, from fairly conservative to the most radical because the plane has a two-seater cockpit and can accommodate a lot of bulky and heavy additional equipment.

For a long time, the only thing we knew about the proposed Su-30MKI upgrades was the name of the program: Sukhoi Super 30. There was no information about the technical specifications, timeline or costs. Commentators often confuse Sukhoi Super 30 with another upgrade program that aims to integrate the Su-30MKI with the air-launched version of the BrahMos anti-ship cruise missile. These are in fact two independent and unrelated projects. BrahMos will be installed on only 40-42 planes. The program has already reached a fairly advanced phase of flight-testing to ascertain mechanical compatibility of the BrahMos-A air-launched missile with a reinforced Su-30MKI airframe. Live missile launches are due to commence very shortly. The Sukhoi Super 30 program, on the other hand, will be rolled out to the entire Indian fleet of Su-30MKI fighters; it has yet to begin in earnest, and up until recently, there was very little information about it in the public domain.

Recently, however, the influential Indian newspaper The Hindu reported that in July 2016 Russia and India held consultations on Sukhoi Super 30, and that they hoped to sign a deal very soon. Another well informed newspaper, The Economic Times, reported that the technical requirements would be finalized by the year’s end, and that the contract would be signed in early 2017. The estimated cost of the program is $7-8 billion. It is therefore clear that the program is still at the very early stages, and that the Sukhoi Super 30 technical specifications have yet to be agreed. One of the central issues in the upcoming discussions will certainly be the use of local suppliers as part of the Indian government’s Make in India industrial policy.

The Specifics of Indian Procurement Policy

The original Su-30MKI program was implemented at lighting speed, by Indian standards. The upgrade program, however, has been making glacial progress, which is fairly normal for the Indian defense procurement system. After Russia introduced the original Su-30MKI proposal, it took only three years to sign the first contract. The proposal was submitted in December 1993 during a visit to India by representatives of the Irkutsk Aircraft Plant and the Sukhoi Design Bureau; the contract was signed in November 1996. Incidentally, the final technical specifications of the Su-30MKI were very different from the Su-30K Russia had originally tried to sell to India. The differences concerned not just avionics but even the platform itself.

The Su-30MKI program still remains unprecedented in terms of the time it took to implement. Most of the Indian aerospace programs are very slow. They include, for example, the Mirage 2000 and MiG-29 upgrades. Such upgrades, however, appear to be the best way for the IAF to bolster its fighting ability, especially in view of the budget constraints and the ongoing paralysis of the tender procedures that prevent the IAF from increasing the number of its squadrons to 45. Upgrading the existing planes obviates the need for increasing the already excessive number of various plane models in service with the IAF. Upgrade programs are also cheaper than buying new planes, and they are fully in line with the government’s Make in India policy.

The languid pace of decision-making on the IAF upgrade programs may be a reflection of India’s fundamental cultural patterns and of the additional red tape introduced by the DPP mechanism. Back in the 2000s, the IAF had a clear superiority over the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) by every possible measure, and it compensated for the Chinese Air Force’s greater numbers by superior technology (thanks primarily to the rapid implementation of the Su-30MKI program). Slow and deliberate decision-making therefore did not pose any major military-political risks, and it did help to keep costs under control. With the existing balance of military power and technology at the time, there was no pressing need for the Indian MoD to rush the procurement of new planes or the upgrades of the existing ones, so its relaxed approach was entirely rational.

Now, however, the situation is completely different. Pakistan has received up-to-date versions of America’s F-16 fighters and dozens of the Chinese-Pakistani FC-1 planes. What was once India’s complete dominance over the Pakistani Air Force has become a mere superiority. In fact, Pakistan may well achieve near-parity over time if it receives J-10 fighters from China (as well as the J-31, the quasi-5th generation fighter now being developed by the Chinese). Such near-parity between the IAF and the PAF would be completely unprecedented.

The power balance with the Chinese Air Force is an even greater worry for India. In the 1990s and early 2000s China bought 76 Su-27SK/UBK fighters and 100 Su-30MKK/MK2 fighters from Russia. It quickly built another 105 Su-27SK planes under Russian license, and then launched production of its own clones of these planes without bothering with the license. All of these planes represented early 1980s technology – but now China is about to start receiving the latest Russian Su-35 fighters. It is also working on its own quasi-5th generation fighter programs. As a result, the Chinese Air Force will catch up with the Indian Air Force in terms of technology, while also maintaining its impressive numerical superiority. India’s old defense procurement model, in which seven to 10 years is required merely to prepare a contract, has therefore become obsolete and unsustainable.

There is a pressing need for speeding up the Su-30MKI program in order to restore the Indian Air Force’s technological superiority over the Chinese. Essentially, India needs to pull off the same trick it did in the mid-1990s, when it responded to China’s mass procurement of Su-27/30 fighters with the original Su-30MKI program. Two decades on, India needs to respond to China’s Su-35 and J-31 jets with the Sukhoi Super 30.

Upgrade options

The choice of the specific upgrade option will represent some kind of compromise between the price tag, the time frame, and the capability of the upgraded plane. In theory, this leaves a broad variety of technological solutions on the table. The most conservative solution - which is also the cheapest and quickest – would be to roll out to the entire Su-30MKI fleet the improvements already incorporated in the latest versions of the plane. The Su-30MKI is the oldest member of the family that also includes the Malaysian Su-30MKM (the 2007 model), and the Russian Su-30SM (the 2011 model). A conservative upgrade option would include a limited number of additional self-defense systems (similar to the ones used in the Malaysian model), as well as the numerous new missiles and smart bombs that are now being developed as part of the Russian 2020 State Armament Program for the Su-30SM. The conservative approach would essentially bring the Su-30MKI up to the Su-30SM level.

Meanwhile, the most radical upgrade option would be to develop an equivalent of America’s Silent Eagle fighter. This option would include replacing most of the plane’s systems. Most importantly, its passive phased array radar would be replaced with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Changes would also be made to the plane’s airframe to reduce its radar cross-section. The obvious drawback of this option is the high cost and the long time it would take to implement.

Finally, the most realistic option that would deliver great returns in terms of the plane’s capability without costing too much or taking too much time sits somewhere in the middle. It includes a deep upgrade of the plane’s N-011M Bars radar and integration of the latest Russian and Indian-made electronics, optics and infrared systems without modifications to the airframe.

It would also make sense to implement the Su-30MKI upgrade program in several batches of 50-55 planes, with each successive batch incorporating more complex technology. Such an approach was mentioned as a possibility by Yuri Beliy, chief of the NIIP Tikhomirov company, the developer of the Bars radar. Speaking in an interview, Beliy said that the first phase of the program could include upgrading the Bars radar to give it a greater range, higher resolution, better jamming resistance, and support for new weapons systems. At a later phase, the Bars radar could be equipped with an active phased array. The planes upgraded in the first batch could later be brought to the technical standard of the latest batches without any major difficulties.

The approach would make it possible to start the program quickly (thereby securing orders for India’s HAL and other local suppliers). It would improve the IAF’s capability in an evolutionary way, and it would be easier on the IAF pilots, who will not have to deal with a quantum leap in the complexity of the upgraded plane’s systems. Such a phased strategy worked well in 2002-2004, when Russia delivered the first 32 Su-30MKI planes. The fighters were supplied in three batches of 10, 12 and 10. Each successive batch included some improvements that were later incorporated in the previous batches, so all 32 planes were eventually brought to the same standard.

When the Su-30MKI specifications were being drawn up, the Indian military came up with an extremely well-balanced set of requirements for the new plane. Those requirements were at the cutting edge of – but not beyond – the Russian defense industry’s capability at the time, and could be implemented at a reasonable cost and within reasonable deadlines. It is to be hoped that a similarly well-balanced solution will be found for the Sukhoi Super 30 program.

Konstantin Makienko is deputy director of the Centre for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) in Moscow



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Vietnam’s president warns all will lose in any South China Sea war - China has all but ended the charade of a peaceful rise


Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang warned on Tuesday there would be no winners in any armed conflict sparked by territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Quang, who is on a state visit to Singapore, told a forum that recent developments in the contested waters were threatening regional security.

His remarks came as the defence ministers of the two nations held talks in Beijing, vowing to boost military cooperation and make contributions to regional peace.

Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan told his Vietnamese counterpart Ngo Xuan Lich that the two nations could properly deal with their differences, state-run Xinhua reported. Chang said the two militaries should continue high-level exchanges and cooperation on multilateral security affairs.

In his remarks, the Vietnamese president did not mention any country but there is growing unease over China’s actions.

China claims most of the South China Sea. It has reclaimed reefs and built airstrips capable of hosting military equipment, sparking anger from competing claimants led by Vietnam and the Philippines.

“The South China Sea, located at the heart of Southeast Asia, not only brings about many important benefits to nations in the region, but it is also a vital route to maritime and air transport of the world,” Quang said.

But “recent worrying developments” there “have had a negative impact on the security environment of the region, especially maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation and overflight”.

“And should we allow instability to take place, especially in the case of armed conflicts, there will be neither winners or losers but rather all will lose,” he warned.

Quang was speaking to diplomats, academics and students at a forum organised by the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

Four Southeast Asian states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – as well as Taiwan have competing claims in the sea.

Vietnam has been among the most vocal critics of China’s blanket territorial claims. In 2014 China moved a controversial oil rig into contested territory, prompting riots in Vietnam.

China’s activities in the sea have also drawn criticism from the United States, which says it seeks to ensure freedom of navigation in the waterway through which US$5 trillion in annual global trade passes.

The sea row has also driven a wedge between members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has failed to forge a unified front against Beijing’s actions.

Last month the Philippines won a case against China at an international tribunal in The Hague which rejected Beijing’s claims to most of the sea.

China boycotted the hearing and has refused to recognise the ruling. Fidel Ramos, acting as special envoy of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, travelled to Hong Kong last month to mend fences with Beijing, meeting his “old friends” that have “links to President Xi Jinping”.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post


The Philippine military deployed thousands of extra troops on Tuesday to destroy an Islamic extremist group notorious for kidnapping foreigners, after 15 soldiers were killed


President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his security forces to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf, which has declared allegiance to the Islamic State group and recently beheaded two Canadian hostages.

But an assault that began last week on the heavily forested island of Jolo, one of the Abu Sayyaf’s strongholds about 900km south of Manila, has met fierce resistance.

Fifteen troops were killed and another 10 were injured in a single encounter with the Abu Sayyaf on Monday.

An additional 2,500 troops were on Tuesday deployed to Jolo and nearby islands.

The extra troops would join two brigades already involved in the fighting and here are at least 1,000 soldiers in a brigade.

 “Go out and destroy them. Kill whoever they are,” Duterte said last week, in reference to the Abu Sayyaf.

The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of a militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network. It is based in remote Muslim populated southern islands of the mainly Catholic Philippines, and has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom.

While its leaders have in recent years pledged allegiance to Islamic State, analysts say the group is mainly focused on a lucrative kidnapping business rather than religious ideology.

This year the militants beheaded two Canadians after their demands for millions of dollars in ransoms were rejected. The group is currently believed to be holding a Norwegian, a Dutchman and five Indonesian sailors, according to the military.

Previous Philippine leaders made similar vows as Duterte to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf and failed, even with help from military ally the US.


Very Few Indonesians are aware of Australia’s Role in Supporting Independence - Australia’s early support was crucial for Indonesia’s future

Indonesia celebrated its 71st anniversary of independence on Aug. 17. Australia’s support was instrumental for Indonesia’s formation in 1945.

In November 1945, then Indonesian prime minister Sutan Sjahrir thanked the Australian nation through a radio address. “I am unknown to most of you, and yet I call you my friends.

The workers who refused to load Dutch ships with arms and munitions, which would be used against our republic, the thousands holding demonstrations, the thousands who sympathize with our struggle for freedom, you are all my friends.”

While the young republic engaged in four years of tough diplomatic negotiations and fierce fighting, the Australian government worked to secure the UN’s support for Indonesia.

A long time ago, my teacher taught me that history was inescapable. It is through history that we can connect ourselves to the past. History inspires us for tomorrow.

It is important to understand the forces and events that may shape our environment and thus our possible decisions. In the next few decades, Australia and Indonesia will face some of their biggest challenges and opportunities.

The world in 2030 will look different, partly due to changes in demographic composition.

Today, the world population stands at 6.6 billion, while in 2030 it will grow to 8.3 billion.

The Indonesia of the 2030s will be dominated by a young and productive age population living in one of the top 10-biggest economies in the world.

Australia too will undergo significant changes. The Australian Bureau of Statistics projects that its population will grow to almost 26 million by 2030. Social researcher Mark McCrindle forecasts that the average household income will grow from US$50,000 today to $200,000 in 2030.

One common challenge for Australia and Indonesia is obviously increased population pressure. Australia will have to respond to the challenges of an aging population resulting in declining labor force participation, falling average work hours and slowing economic growth.

Indonesia too will need to address the pressure brought by 285 million Indonesians on the nation’s resources. The government will need to maintain a high and steady rate of growth that creates quality jobs and can absorb the millions of new job seekers coming into the pipeline over the period.

Designing policies that provide solutions to those challenges would then be the main preoccupation of today’s and future national governments.

Development planning, policies and regulations have to be designed to unleash productivity, connect people, create economic opportunity, to ease the doing of business, open markets and slash unproductive practices.

Government policies will also need to be targeted to narrowing the development gap between provinces and cities.

Another challenge is promoting a culture of innovation and science across Indonesia to help sustain growth and escape from the possible middle-income trap.

By the 2050s, Australia and Indonesia will live in a region that is much bigger than it is now, economically, demographically and militarily. Bilateral trade and investment will be significantly larger.

More Indonesians will be studying in Australia and many more tourists will be crossing our borders. In the last two months, Indonesia became the top destination for Australian vacationers. Over the next decades, we will be more interdependent with each other.

It is quite natural and expected that two neighboring countries will have differences and misunderstanding from time to time. But I am happy to see the consistent commitment and work by all stakeholders in both countries is adding to the resilience of the relationship. It is unproductive and damaging to let the three B’s of Bali, beef and boats define our overall relations.

Australia and Indonesia are following through on their commitments to forge strong partnerships, including by addressing the challenges of people smuggling, counterterrorism and drafting a high-standard comprehensive economic partnership.

In the 2030s, ASEAN will transform from today’s seventh-largest economy in the world to the fourth largest. While ASEAN will continue as one of the global hubs of manufacturing and trade, with 67 million consumers and predicted to double to 125 million by 2025, it would also boast one of the largest consumer markets in the world.

The challenge is to diversify ASEAN’s export destinations to ensure that it does not depend too heavily on a single international market. Another challenge is to ensure the unity of ASEAN in the face of strong external pressure and to put the members firmly behind the driver’s seat.

As in the past, Indonesia will continue its partnership with Australia in ASEAN and other regional organizations.

The next few decades are a defining period for Australia-Indonesia and their role in the region. Our partnership should continue to focus on finding solutions to today’s problems and preparing the foundation for future opportunities.

Early in our history, leaders of Indonesia and Australia realized that both nations have many mutual interests. Australia’s early support was crucial for Indonesia’s future. In turn, Prime minister Sutan foresaw the future when he ended his address in 1945 by saying: “We can and we will certainly establish close relations as good neighbors.”
Nadjib Riphat Kesoema | Canberra

The writer is Indonesian ambassador to Australia.