April 11 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain is ready to resume arms exports to Indonesia after former governments used British jets to crush rebels.
Cameron said the U.K. had learned from past mistakes and that Indonesian generals no longer meddle in politics, creating conditions for new agreements to supply British arms. Cameron is in Jakarta today on the second day of a visit to Asia where he is leading a business delegation with companies including BAE Systems Plc and AgustaWestland, a unit of Finmeccanica SpA.
“We have to be honest and straightforward about the problems in the past,” Cameron told Kompas daily ahead of his arrival in Jakarta. “But both Britain and Indonesia have made significant changes since then.”
The previous Labour administration stopped sales of arms to Indonesia after Hawk aircraft were used to bomb rebels in Aceh. Cameron is looking to boost exports as he seeks to prevent the U.K. from slipping into its second recession in three years.
“Indonesia has transformed itself in the past decade into one of the world’s most important democracies, with a free media and elections,” Cameron said. “The military no longer plays a role in politics, but fulfills its proper role defending the country from external attack.”
Cameron said Britain now has “what is one of the most rigorous and careful arms licensing systems in the world” to make sure “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,” Cameron said. “Britain makes some of the best defense equipment in the world and it is right that it is available to Indonesia, under the very same criteria that we apply to all our partners around the world.”
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