PNG Defense Corporation with Israel is Significant for Indo-Pacific


by
DAVID KAWAGE BITNO 

Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) is the unified armed forces of PNG originating from the Australian army in 1973 before Independence and having its precursors in the Pacific Island Regiment. Today the PNGDF is a small force consisting of a Land Element, an Air Operations Element and a Maritime Operations Element. It is a joint force tasked with defending Papua New Guinea and its territories against external attack, as well as having secondary functions including national-building, internal security tasks, civil emergencies and humanitarian responses.

The current manpower of more than 3,600 defence personnel compares to a ratio of 1: 188 soldier against our neighbour Indonesia with almost a million soldiers of 675, 500. There are times when the military of both countries faced-off with each other with conflict upsurge in the borders. The size of the PNGDF is to be increased under the Defence White Paper 2013 to 5,000 personnel by 2017 then to 10,000 by 2030 subsequently upgrading the military command from Brigadier to Division.

The West Papuan Rebels who called themselves the Organise Papua Meredeka (OPM) an independent movement established since 1965 is one of the main issues in the border. The OPM often had skirmishes with the Indonesian forces that in an attempt to flee, the OPM often escaped into PNG territories that clogged the Indonesian forces from further advancing into PNG soil.

The rebels took advantage of the Treaty of Mutual Respect, Friendship and Cooperation signed in October 1986 by the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Under the terms of this treaty the two countries agreed not to threaten or use force against one another and not to cooperate with others in hostile or unlawful acts against each other or allow their territory to be used by others for such purposes. Provision was made also for consultation and negotiation in the event of any dispute that obliged both forces not to infringe on the defence partnership and respect each other’s sovereignty.

PNGDF is one of the best combat teams in jungle warfare as attested to by Australian Defence Force (ADF) and New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in Exercise Wantok Warrior and Exercise Luluai respectively conducted by PNGDF. They were trained in jungle warfare and jungle survival skills by PNGDF in PNG to enable them to operate across the Pacific.

Deploying strategic military cooperation tactics in border patrols ever since PNG’s independence in 1975 have emboldened the courage and brevity despite its minute manpower. Australia and the USA, considering PNG as a buffer zone for Indonesia and lately Chinese incursion into the Indo-Pacific, have committed to intensify defence cooperation programs.  Australia and New Zealand had played a pivotal role in the formulation and implementation of the PNG Defence White Paper in 2013.

The Defence White Paper is a key policy document which provides the Government's vision for defence that sets out the Government's analysis of the country's security environment, both domestically and internationally, and is also an instrument of accountability. The Defence White Paper offers the direction and advancement of PNGDF in its endeavours to modernize in building its military capability and intervention programs.

Given the geo-strategic landscape, the Pacific is the hub of transnational crimes that has adversely impacted the growth and development of the Pacific nations and their placement in the global podium. 

There is a need for greater involvement in military intelligence and capability in order to upscale national security operations in effective surveillance and espionage across the Indo-Pacific. Until 1988 separate intelligence sections existed within the PNGDF and the Department of Defence. These appeal to have had their own sources of intelligence, especially along the Irian Jaya border, and to have received information from Australia.

Israel is a new partner in PNG’s Defence Cooperation Program after a maiden visit in 2013 to Israel led by former Prime Minister Peter O’Neil. This was after the Somare Cabinet was reactivated and approved to establish a permanent diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. PNG and Israel formally entered into bilateral relations in 1978 but the relationship has been dormant for many years, in which Israel began to pay greater attention to Asia and the Pacific, little was done to enhance diplomatic ties.

Israel, one of the few democratic countries in the Middle-East, is a traditional ally of the USA. The US-Pacific mission ostensibly drives Israel to strengthen security and intelligence interventions in the Indo-Pacific. A strategic collaboration with PNG for greater America’s influence in Asia-Pacific aiming to shrink Chinese intrusion into the greater Pacific with Israel is invaluable.

Israel is rated as one of the top in the world in military operations. Israel's Sayeret Matkal is another of the world's most elite units and is rated the top of the 8 most elite forces in the world. Its primary purpose is intelligence gathering, and it often operates deep behind enemy lines. Israel is singled-out in the Middle-East as America’s true friend. The Anti-America sentiments in the Arab World is subsequently embedded in Israel.

Israel is a tiny nation  surrounded by the enemy Arab States, the antagonism is so enormous and palpable that puts Israel under extreme pressures that caused Israel to develop state of art military capabilities and innovative armed systems that makes them invincible in the Middle-East. Today, Israel is a high-tech superpower and one of the world’s top weapons exporters with approximately $6.5 billion in annual arms sales.

PNG sharing a common border with Indonesia, a country with the largest military personnel in South East Asia according to Global Firepower's latest rankings and the world largest Islamic populations has dwarfed PNG in military dynamism and PNG will never have a chance to stand against Indonesia in any future engagement. PNG-Indonesia bilateral relations of border cooperation acts as the main shield to maintain peace and security.

However, one cannot underrated the conceivable escalation of an armed conflict between OPM and Indonesian forces in a prolonged civil war declared as genocide by the UN Peace Council. A sporadic thwart to involve PNGDF in the future military stand-off between OPM and Indonesian army is imminent.

The looming threat contour and the volatility of the military landscape places Israel in an ideal position to boost and upturn parameters of defence partnership. The Israel military intervention programs with robust scaling for Israel’s involvement will better position PNGDF to suppress and improve border operations that will immensely curtail transnational crimes in the Indo-Pacific.

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