Subject: The Australian: Defence Beefs Up Ties With Jakarta

The Australian

Friday, March 28, 2008

Defence beefs up ties with Jakarta

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 disaster relief.

Visits by defence chiefs have become routine and Australia and Indonesia conduct an annual strategic dialogue involving defence and intelligence officials.

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 military superpower.

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

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