Indonesia's Defence Minister Prabowo, once banned from entering US, gets invitation to visit

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Indonesia’s Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto has been invited to the United States for a discussion of defence cooperation between the two countries, a ministry spokesman said on Thursday (Oct 8).

“US Defence Secretary Mark Esper has invited Prabowo to visit the US from Oct 15 to 19,” Indonesian Defence Ministry spokesman Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak wrote in a statement.

He added that Mr Prabowo had accepted the invitation and was set to travel to the US for the official visit.

“In accordance with Indonesia’s principle of ‘free and active’ foreign policy and non-involvement in military alliances with any country… Minister Prabowo has been actively engaged in defence diplomacy with various countries, including the US,” the statement read.

It is uncertain whether the invitation means that Washington has, or will, grant a visa to Mr Prabowo, a retired three-star army general who has long been barred from the US because of allegations of human rights abuses.

Mr Prabowo was included in a blanket ban on the Indonesian Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) for alleged human rights violations in East Timor when the territory was under Indonesian rule.

In 2000, he was prevented from attending the graduation of his son in Boston, Massachusetts.

Reuters reported that in 2012 that Mr Prabowo was again denied a visa by the US.

Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, a politician from the Gerindra Party of which Mr Prabowo is chairman, said in October 2019 that he believed the ban had been lifted.

The US Embassy in Jakarta previously said that visa records were confidential under US law and the details of individual visa cases could not be disclosed.

Military observers have said that the travel ban against Mr Prabowo may affect the minister’s decisions in procuring arms to fulfill the Minimum Essential Force (MEF) provision. Online news outlet Politico reported on Tuesday (Oct 6) that the US State Department had decided to grant a visa to Mr Prabowo, citing a source familiar with the issue.

The State Department’s spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, Politico journalist Nahal Toosi said.

Tempo online news reported that Mr Prabowo has recently been in frequent contact with US representatives. Last month, he welcomed the visit of James H. Anderson from the Pentagon. He was also in contact with his US counterpart, Mark T Esper, the Tempo report said.

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