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Civil-Military Relations in Post-Suharto Indonesia

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  • April 08, 2011
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chairperson: Dr R N Das
    Discussants: Professor Baladas Ghoshal and Shri C S Kuppuswamy

    The author analysed the developments in civil-military relations in Indonesia especially in the post Suharto era. He highlighted the fact that Indonesia charted its own civil military relation and almost defied the predetermined path laid out by theoreticians.

    He also argued that military’s disposition in the civilian sphere had declined in the successive administrations since 1998. The military was unwilling to take on direct political role during the time of B J Habibie. Under the Habibie administration, military introduce few changes in its doctrine and charted out four principles viz. a) the Military would no longer be in forefront of politics; b) It would influence the political process indirectly; c) It would shift its sociopolitical position from occupier to that of influencer and d) It would concede some of its sociopolitical functions to the nonmilitary partners. In the administration of Adburrahman Wahid, the civilian government appropriated certain function such as appointments and promotion of senior officers which until now the military had exercised.

    In this paper, the author discussed various theories of civil-military relations including the Separation and Concordance theory. He argued that the Separation theory is inadequate in explaining the relationship between armed forces, the political elite, the society and the institutions in post-Suharto Indonesia. The author highlighted that it is Concordance theory (which takes into account a nation's historical and cultural context in determining the democratization of the country) better explains the developments in the post Suharto period.

    The author identified various internal variables, external variables, and international variables to enquire the nature and developments in civil-military relations in Indonesia and attempted to extrapolate the future trend of civil military relations.

    As regards internal variables, he explained that the internal variable refers to factors internal to the military such as professionalism, corporate interests, politicization etc. He highlighted the fact that army with its hierarchic organization and a cohesive characteristic ensures speedy implementation of decisions taken. He stated that it is claimed that armies are agents of modernization, whether or not they intervene in politics, since military driven investment has spin-off benefits for the civilian sector as well. He offered the explanation that Indonesian military drew its political strength from the doctrine of “dual function” which assigned it a direct political role beyond its strictly military role. He also enumerated the role of external factors such as political, social system and governance and the related factors that shaped civil-military relations in Indonesia.

    In conclusion he emphasised that Indonesia is undergoing societal changes which have their basis in the civil society. Quoting Huntington, he stated that future problems in civil military relations in new democracies such as Indonesia are likely to come from the failures of democratic governments to promote economic developments and maintain law and order and not necessarily from the military. He speculated that these challenges will be faced with a new interpretation of civil military relations.

    Major points of discussion and suggestions:

    The author should highlight the characteristics of Indonesian army and should give more details how it came into existence.

    The author should give more empirical evidences to the theories discussed in the paper and should test whether these theories are applicable to the Indonesian case.

    The author should highlight the reason for continued domination of military in Indonesia, may be in conclusion of the paper.

    The author should emphasize as to how these three factors (i.e. internal, external and international) emphasized in the paper interact with each other, thus influencing the nature of civil military relations.

    A separate paragraph on the socio-political fabric of Indonesia is needed right at the outset, qualify more explicitly which will help the author's argument, the futility of the Separation theory that is discussed in the paper.

    The author should add a hypothesis, particularly because the paper discusses about independent variable and dependent variable. The author needs to identify the relationship between the independent variable and dependent variable.

    Report prepared by Shamshad A. Khan, Research Assistant, East Asia cluster.