Friday, March 28, 2008
Patrick Walters, National security editor
AUSTRALIA is set to strengthen defence ties with Indonesia, expanding
combined exercises, training and educational links.
The upswing in defence relations comes in the wake of the recent
ratification of the Lombok Treaty on defence co-operation, which
provides a surer foundation for closer defence ties.
Bilateral defence relations have been subject to sharp changes over
the past decade. In the wake of the Australian-led intervention in
East Timor in 1999, Indonesia tore up a defence pact negotiated by
former prime minister Paul Keating and defence ties were all but
severed for several years.
Nearly a decade later, both sides are committed to working more
closely on common security issues including terrorism, piracy and
Visits by defence chiefs have become routine and Australia and
Indonesia conduct an annual strategic dialogue involving defence and
Both sides are proceeding cautiously on expanding the range of
military-to-military exercises, which are chiefly focused on maritime
security, peacekeeping and disaster management.
Indonesia’s Defence Minister, Juwono Sudarsono, said yesterday he
would like to see more training of young officers from Indonesia’s
defence force in Australia in management and IT in addition to
traditional staff college courses. Last year, 110 Indonesian officers
trained in Australia.
Dr Sudarsono poured cold water on any suggestion that Indonesia was
engaged in any kind of arms build-up, describing the defence budget
as a “shoestring budget without a shoe”.
Dr Sudarsono told a seminar at the Australian National University
that Indonesia’s $US3.5billion ($3.81 billion) defence budget was
smaller than than of tiny Singapore which had emerged as ASEAN’s
The key security challenge for Indonesia was economic rather than
military, as 36 million people, or about 15 per cent of the
population, lived below the poverty line.
Dr Sudarsono stressed that poverty alleviation and employment
generation were fundamental to Indonesia’s long-term security.
Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said yesterday his meeting with Dr
Sudarsono had provided a timely opportunity to advance defence ties
following the ratification of the Lombok Treaty.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the two sides would work on a series of joint
understandings to identify areas for closer co-operation, including
joint defence science and technology projects.
“The joint understandings will outline our mutual priorities for
future defence engagement, including military training and
post-graduate education, combined exercises and maritime surveillance
and patrol,” he said.
Joyo Indonesia News Service