'It's defence diplomacy': Jokowi defends Prabowo's frequent overseas trips

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
Reuters

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has defended Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto against scathing criticism of the minister's frequent overseas trips.

During the Defence Ministry's leaders meeting on Wednesday, Jokowi said that Prabowo's diplomatic forays to a number of foreign countries recently were forms of diplomacy in relation to bolstering Indonesia's defence sector.

"Should there be any question regarding the purpose of the minister's overseas trips, the answer is for no other purpose than to bolster our diplomacy in the defence sphere," Jokowi said on Thursday 

The President noted that Prabowo had also been inspecting alutsista (primary weapons defence systems) the government intended to purchase from other countries.

He said that during the visits, Prabowo - who was Jokowi's erstwhile rival in last year's presidential election - had checked whether the weaponry systems were any good or appropriate for Indonesia's needs. 

 "He's been checking every little detail," Jokowi said, "the people who question [the purpose of Prabowo's overseas trips] are those who have yet to understand the concept of defence diplomacy."

Prabowo has visited seven countries in his official capacity since he was inaugurated as the country's defence minister in October, the first being China late last year.

The minister's overseas trips have drawn skepticism and outright criticism from a number of parties, including the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which supported Prabowo's presidential candidacy in both the 2014 and 2019 elections.

PKS general commissioner Mardani Ali Sera brought up Jokowi's comment that diplomatic relations could be strengthened simply through mobile phones.

"Jokowi remarked on Aug. 16 of last year that his administration would minimise the frequency of overseas trips. He even pointed out that such visits could be substituted with phone conversations in this interconnected world," he said as quoted by kompas.com.

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He went on to say that such visits must be planned with concrete goals in mind.

"Overseas trips are fine, but please make sure that their return-on-investment is better. Everything has to be disclosed to the public," Mardani said.

Prabowo has previously responded to such criticism by saying that overseas trips are required for weapons inspections.

"We do need to shop around, taking every factor into consideration. We have to study the available weaponry," Prabowo said on Monday.