By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent Last Updated: 10:50AM BST 11/04/2012
Wed 11 Apr 2012 Updated 3 mins ago
British arms companies are to begin selling weapons and defence systems to Indonesia for the first time in 13 years, under plans to be discussed by David Cameron today.
The Prime Minister arrived in Jakarta today to “fly the flag” for British goods with an entourage of representatives from businesses including several defence companies such as BAE Systems.
Speaking on the runway as he was greeted by a military parade, Mr Cameron said he was visiting Indonesia because it "will be a top 10 economy and these are huge opportunities for British business".
"I think we need to recognise that so much of the power in the world is going to be to the south and to the east and we need to rebuild those relationships," he said.
Britain was once Indonesia’s biggest military supplier, during and after the Suharto dictatorship ended in 1998. However, Britain stopped selling it fighter jets 13 years ago, as the country was accused of bombing its own citizens using British-made planes in East Timor in 1999, and again in Aceh in 2003.
But the Prime Minister said that it was right to make British military equipment available to Indonesia now it was a “responsible” country.
“We have to be honest and straightforward about the problems in the past,” he said. “But both
Britain and Indonesia have made significant changes since then.
“In Britain we now have what is one of the most rigorous and careful arms licensing systems in the world, to ensure that arms do not fall into the hands of those who might misuse them. But at the same time we believe that democratic and responsible countries like Indonesia have a right to defend themselves, and to buy the equipment needed to do so.”
He added that the Indonesian military “no longer plays a role in politics”.
Mr Cameron is expected to urge Islamic countries to embrace democracy like Indonesia and Malaysia, where he is heading on the next leg of his trip. On Friday he is expected to go to Burma, becoming the first Western leader to visit the country since its military junta handed over to a quasi-civilian regime.
Mr Cameron is also likely to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, the campaigner for democracy, who was released from years of house arrest in November 2010 and has been elected to Burma’s parliament.
Mr Cameron’s whole tour is aimed at promoting British exports, starting in Japan, the world’s third largest economy.
He spent yesterday with Yoshihiko Noda, the Japanese prime minister.
Britain is making a big push to sell defence equipment in Japan, after it loosened its rules on building up military defences in December.
Mr Cameron also hailed a £336 million deal between Airbus, a European aircraft maker, and the Garuda Indonesia airline.
He said the sale of 11 A330 aircraft was "testament to the expertise of Airbus's British workforce" and would protect jobs in Bristol and Broughton.
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