Australia, Indonesia to sign defence pact within ‘months’

In a joint statement, Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, the nation’s likely next president, hailed the relationship between the two countries, which he said were destined to be good neighbours.


Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles (left) gives a press statement on Feb. 23, 2024, after his meeting with Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto (second right) in Jakarta. PHOTO: ANTARA/THE JAKARTA POST

February 28, 2024

JAKARTA – Indonesia and Australia hope to sign a “very significant” defense cooperation agreement within the next few months, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said on Friday after meeting his counterpart in Jakarta.

“Australia and Indonesia have a shared destiny and a shared collective security and that is the basis on which we are moving forward,” Marles said after meeting Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, Reuters reported.

Marles has visited Indonesia twice in less than a year, underscoring his country’s growing interest in bolstering cooperation with its northern neighbor.

In a joint statement, Prabowo, the nation’s likely next president following the Feb. 14 general election, hailed the relationship between the two countries, which he said were destined to be good neighbors.

“We are committed to maintaining and enhancing this relationship. So I don’t think there will be surprises, but we intend to cultivate this good relationship in many sectors, such as education, economy, culture and military,” he said in response to a question about bringing new ideas into cooperation between the two countries, as quoted by state news agency Antara.

Neither minister provided details about the agreement, but Prabowo said he expected it to be signed within two or three months.

“We plan to sign the defense cooperation agreement with Australia in the near future,” he said.

Under the stewardship of Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, Indonesia has kept a close watch on Australia’s every movement in the defense and security realm, ever since Jakarta was slighted in the 2021 announcement of the trilateral defense deal known as AUKUS involving Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Australia is an ally of the US, which has taken an increasingly hostile approach to its superpower rival China, the reigning military power in Asia.

Indonesia was reportedly given only a few day’s notice about the AUKUS deal, which primarily targets Chinese supremacy in the Indo-Pacific but which analysts fear has sparked an arms race across the region, at the behest of Southeast Asian nations championing regional peace.

But since he stepped up as defense minister in the second term of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, Prabowo has taken a much softer stance on the matter.

During their meeting, which lasted for about two hours, Marles emphasized that Indonesia and Australia face the same regional security threats, and the understanding of this serves as the basis for each side’s defense policy.

If the cooperation agreement is signed, Marles believes it will represent the most significant defense partnership in the history of Indonesia and Australia’s relations.

“It will also be the most important moment in this bilateral relationship,” Marles said.

Earlier this month, Australia said it would boost its defense spending by an additional 11.1 billion Australian dollars (US$7.25 billion) over the next decade as it aims to double its fleet of combat-ready ships.

Meanwhile, Prabowo has also promised to boost defense spending if elected as the nation’s next leader, with analysts suggesting he would more closely court the US while balancing Indonesia’s prominent economic ties with China.

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