Vela Andapita, Jakarta – Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto has played down reports that the Indonesian government plans to purchase weaponry systems from France, which emerged following his visit to the French Defense Ministry in Paris last week.
French newspaper La Tribune reported on Friday that, citing "concordant sources", Prabowo was interested in purchasing 48 Rafale jet fighters, four Scorpene-class submarines armed with Exocet SM29 missiles and two 2,500-ton Gowind corvettes from France.
The news broke days after Prabowo held a bilateral meeting with his French counterpart Florence Parly on Jan. 13, during which the two ministers discussed steps to strengthen bilateral defense ties and efforts to help advance Indonesia's defense industry this year.
According to La Tribune, the purchase could be made through an intergovernmental agreement and the ministers had arranged to finalize the operation, although nothing is on the horizon at the moment.
However, when asked for confirmation about the news, Prabowo only laughed and said, "That's probably their [the French government's] wish."
The minister, however, conceded that there was an urgency for Indonesia to modernize its weaponry systems and advance its defense industry, particularly following the recent tension with China in the North Natuna Sea.
"In order to enhance our defense, we definitely need to modernize our weaponry defense systems and repair what we already have, so that we have the power to assert our sovereignty," he said.
During his visit to Paris, Prabowo also held meetings with defense companies that produce ammunition, fighter jets, vessels, radars and avionics systems, as he expressed hope that the French defense industry could help Indonesia to improve its defense capacity through technology transfers.
Within 10 years, France has reportedly sold 1.36 billion euro (US$1.5 billion) in military equipment to Indonesia, according to the data published by La Tribune.