This is surely the weirdest, most mysterious suspension of military co-operation between Canberra and Jakarta in the long, storied history of this often tempestuous relationship.
Previously, when the politics went wrong, one side or the other would suspend military co-operation as a political gesture. Former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did this in 2013 when it was revealed that Australian intelligence agencies had tapped his phone and those of his wife and some of their inner circle.
Way back in 1999, Canberra suspended training with Kopassus because of concerns over its actions in East Timor in the period leading up to East Timorese independence.
But in all this time, the essence of the military-to-military relationship was sustained by solid personal ties between senior Indonesian and Australian soldiers.
Never was that more important than when Australia deployed peacekeepers to East Timor. Canberra was able to undertake this deployment, and it went off peacefully, because the Indonesians agreed to it and the Indonesian military allowed it. All of that was accomplished because of the personal relationships that Australian soldiers had with their Indonesian counterparts.
In recent years, groups of retired generals from both countries met regularly in part to make sure there is extra ballast in the relationship.
When the Abbott government was having its greatest difficulties with the Indonesian government, it sent former army chief Peter Leahy to Jakarta with a message from the prime minister.
This latest breakdown in relations seems to be the reverse of all that, a problem between the two militaries leading to a fallout in the political relationship.
And all of this when the political relationship, especially between Joko Widodo and Malcolm Turnbull, is warm and friendly. Indeed, the Indonesian President is scheduled to visit Australia in the first part of this year.
Kopassus soldiers generally conduct a counter-terrorism exercise with Australia’s SAS every year, one year in Australia, the next in Indonesia. The Indonesian special forces, have typically had the greatest respect for the SAS.
Military-to-military co-operation with Indonesia has never been more important to Australia than it is now, for three reasons. First, although the lead in counter-terrorism in Indonesia is now taken by the police, the military remain important in responding to emergencies, back-up capabilities and intelligence. Second, although it has retreated from overt involvement in politics, the military remains one of the most powerful and important institutions within Indonesia. And third, with China’s adventurism in the South China Sea, naval co-operation is important to Australia’s own strategic stability.
The two navies are meant to have joint exercises next month. Hopefully this snafu will be sorted out by then.
Australia apologises to Indonesia military over ‘insulting’ material
A military spat between two often uneasy Asia-Pacific neighbours may have been quelled after Australia expressed regret on Thursday and promised a thorough investigation of “insulting” teaching material found at a west Australian military base.
The “insulting” teaching material led to Indonesia suspending defence ties with Australia when Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Thursday he had given his permission for the suspension of ties and that his defence minister and military chief had been asked to investigate.
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Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday an investigation into the offensive materials that were found at Campbell Barracks in the west Australian city of Perth would be concluded “imminently”.
“We have indicated our regret that this occurred and that offence was taken. I think that’s appropriate when a significant counterpart raises their concerns with you,” Payne told reporters in Sydney.
2 thoughts on “Why in the world is Australia apologizing to Indonesia?”
What were said “offensive materials”?
Truthful anti-islam FACTS?
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