Australia and Indonesia have taken a step closer towards security cooperation this year in a new security pact that would focus on plans to fight terrorism, and advance intelligence and military cooperation between the two countries.
It also includes joint relief operations to deal with natural disaster and other calamities. The pact would also tackle illegal fishing in Australian waters by Indonesian fishermen.
The new agreement would mark a major thaw in relations between Jakarta and Canberra, frayed by the East Timor crisis in 1999 which undermined the first security agreement signed in 1995. The security deal was ripped up when Australia led a UN backed force into East Timor to support the rebel secession from Indonesia.
Indonesian general, Ryacudu had then accused Australia of supporting secessionist forces in Indonesia’s Papua province, and questioned Canberra’s decision to set up a 100 mile maritime security zone, citing a threat made by Howard to conduct ‘preventive strikes’ against terrorist targets in neighbouring states as proof of Australia’s aggressive aims.
Australia has since dropped the ‘preventive strike’ threat when it became a signatory to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) “Friendship Treaty” in Kuala Lumpur last month. The treaty prohibits member states from resorting to military means to solve dispute between each other.
However, according to Mr Downer, the new security pact was not designed as a replacement for the defunct friendship agreement although he expressed that the previous agreement signed by President Suharto and Paul Keating was a waste of time. “The Keating treaty turned out to be nothing more than a publicity stunt” he said.
The alliance guarantees Australia’s non-interference in Indonesia’s affairs, a move aimed at reassuring the Muslim dominated archipelago that Australia will not support provincial independence movements.
“We’re physically close anyway. Australians and Indonesians have got to get used to each other. We’re going to be side by side between now and the end of time,” Downer said in an interview.
Other progress between the two countries in recent weeks includes the joint maritime patrols to stop Indonesian boats fishing illegally in Australian waters; Australia lifting of a seven-year ban on military cooperation between its special forces troops and Indonesia’s elite Kopassus; and the joint investigations into militant attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombing.
Indonesian government sources estimated that the agreement will be concluded within the next few months but Downer said the details would be finalized by the end of the year.
* Canberra’s security deal with Jakarta (The Straits Times, 12 Jan)
* Australia-Indonesia to form new security pact (Reuters, 11 Jan)
* Australia-Indonesia to form new security pact, Downer says (The Jakarta Post, 12 Jan)
* Indonesia-Australia: security accords on the cards (AKI, 12 Jan)