Indonesia urges diplomacy amidst geopolitical tensions

Given geo and socio-political complexities, a good military leader with the right qualifications and experience is key in leading a country’s defense. One of the most strategic appointments in Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense is the director general of defense strategy, which is currently being assumed by Major General Bambang Trisnohadi since September 2022.

Born in Jakarta in 1972, Trisnohadi decided to follow in his father’s footsteps in the military and went on to become the best graduate of Indonesia’s Akademi Militer (military academy) in 1993. Thereafter, he joined the Army’s infantry divisions and was later posted to different units.

From 2011 to 2012, when Trisnohadi was a lieutenant colonel, he took on the role of private secretary to the then Army’s deputy chief of staff, Lieutenant General (retired) Budiman. In 2020, Trisnohadi, a brigadier general by then, was appointed to lead the XVII/Cendrawasih Military Regional Command as chief of staff. In this appointment, he introduced the use of technology to complement security operations, particularly in certain regions like the easternmost part of Indonesia.

“Technological development occurred and must be utilized as effectively as possible. Even now, information could be a weapon,” Trisnohadi said in July 2021, during the launch of Papua Public Relations Coordination Agency (Bakhpua)’s website.

“We know how (certain parties spread incorrect information) between the Armed Forces/Police and the residents on the mountains. Therefore, an agency is required to coordinate the creation and dissemination of accurate information.” 

He also reiterated the importance of coordinated work between the police and military, especially important during the country’s effort to contain the Covid pandemic.

“The role of the National Armed Forces, particularly the Regional Command Unit, is to foster territorial control and assist local governments to develop areas within their scope.”

Brigadier Matt Campbell, head of Australian Defense Staff and Major General Bambang Trisnohadi (right) in Jakarta in December 2022. 

In 2022, Trisnohadi was promoted to the rank of Major General. He served briefly as an expert staff of security at the Ministry of Defense in April 2022 and thereafter was elevated to the position of director general of defense strategy in September 2022. Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto presided over the appointment ceremony, exhorting all senior officers to remember the importance of “doing and giving the best for the nation”.

Trisnohadi now represents Indonesia at the global stage and becomes one of the highest-profile spokespersons to communicate Indonesia’s stance in current global affairs and national strategies in security and defense. In his new role, Trisnohadi hosted a number of high-profile guests, including Christine Cipolla, regional director for Asia and Pacific, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Brigadier Matt Campbell, head of Australian Defense Staff; and Lindsay W. Ford, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense.

During the meeting with Ford, Trisnohadi discussed a handful of issues, including planned capacity building in cyber and maritime security as well as joint military exercise between the Indonesia and the U.S.

Further cooperation and collaboration were also discussed when he met with Okano Masataka, Japan’s deputy national security adviser, and Richard Tibbels, EU’s Special Envoy for the Indo Pacific, European External Action Service, in February and March, respectively.

Lindsay W. Ford, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense and Major General Bambang Trisnohadi (right) in Jakarta in February 2023.

In navigating challenges and conflicts that pose threats and create impacts to Indonesia, the significance of synergy and diplomacy is not lost on Trisnohadi. Speaking to Maritime Fairtrade in March, he revealed that the ministry keeps pushing to encourage joint efforts, including with ASEAN countries, to strengthen maritime security in the region.

In regards to China, whose nine-dash line claim of almost the entire South China Sea is creating tensions all around the region and the world, Trisnohadi reaffirmed Indonesia’s commitment to peaceful means of resolving conflicts. He touted the good relations between Indonesia and China.

“Despite past frictions, we remain committed to diplomacy, through dialogues. ASEAN countries have agreed to always resolve conflicts related to the South China Sea in a peaceful manner. ASEAN also has the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, and we try to contribute to peace, freedom and common prosperity.”

“At present, our relations with China, including in defense and economy, are good,” Trisnohadi said when asked about the outlook of bilateral relations. “It’s to our advantage to have good relations as a non-aligned state, with free and active foreign policy. We have dialogue forums with the U.S. and Australia, as well as with China. And when we spot tension heightening between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, we could play a part in reducing that tension.”

Top photo: Major General Bambang Trisnohadi (right), formally installed as director general of defense strategy by Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, November 2022.

All photos credit: Ministry of Defense, Indonesia

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