Australia, Indonesia agree to intensify defense relations – The Diplomat
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton with his Indonesian counterpart Prabowo Subianto in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 9, 2021.
Credit: Twitter / Peter Dutton
Indonesia and Australia have taken an important step towards deepening their bilateral security relationship, signing new agreements on counterterrorism, defense and cybersecurity.
The agreements were signed yesterday in Jakarta during a meeting between Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defense Minister Peter Dutton and their Indonesian counterparts Retno Marsudi and Prabowo Subianto. Payne and Dutton were in Indonesia on the first leg of an overseas tour that will also take them to India, South Korea and the United States.
Among the agreements was a revised and improved version of the Defense Cooperation Agreement between Australia and Indonesia. signed in February 2018, shortly before the two nations elevated their ties to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”. The two countries also updated two memoranda of understanding on counterterrorism and cybersecurity.
Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto said at a press conference that the new agreement could pave the way for the country’s two armed forces to engage in joint military training in Australia and the participation of Indonesian cadets in Australian academies such as the Royal Military College in Duntroon. He described the two as “a historic first”.
“I think it is important to strengthen our cooperation,” said Prabowo. “Indonesia and Australia are important friends and partners in this region, we are close neighbors and we would like to be even closer friends.”
Ministerial meetings included discussions on efforts to overcome the pandemic, the risks posed by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and broader security issues in a region that has been disrupted by the rapid growth of the country. China.
In his own comments, Dutton described Indonesia and Australia as “anchor points for cooperation” in an “increasingly contested” Asian region. “Our renewed defense cooperation agreement will see Australia and Indonesia step up their training initiatives, joint training initiatives and operational defense activities over the next few years,” he said.
The agreements mark the latest in a gradual improvement in relations between Canberra and Jakarta, which have a long history of military engagement. But relations have been strained over the years, including allegations of abuse by Australian-trained Kopassus special forces in Timor-Leste in 1999, Australian wiretaps by senior officials in 2013 and Indonesian concerns on remarks made at an Australian Army language training center in 2017. The result was what has been called a “jagged trajectory, where relations have evolved between discord and concord.
As Dutton’s comments suggest, however, this zigzag pattern may hide a wider upward trajectory in relationships. In recent years, Indonesia and Australia have been driven together by shared concerns over the turbulence in the maritime regions of Asia that have been troubled by China’s growing military might and strategic ambition, and the response. that this sparked on the part of other powers, especially the United States. .
At the same time, this broad strategic convergence masks areas of divergence. As suggested by Dutton and Payne’s upcoming itinerary, Australia sees a strong security relationship with Indonesia as a complement to its engagement in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, which also includes Japan, the United States and India. Indeed, the duo’s overseas tour came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed he expected to attend the first face-to-face meeting of the “Quad” alliance, to be held in Washington over the next few weeks, would have been September 24.
Indonesia, for its part, will continue to adhere to its long-established “independent and active” foreign policy, which favors omnidirectional engagement with many outside powers, while focusing more on ASEAN and its central position at the heart. diplomacy in the region.
While some disconnect will undoubtedly remain, it is increasingly common for Australia and Canberra to share “like-minded” views on the evolution of the balance of power in Asia.