Indonesia series post #1: SASR, Kopassus and foreign policy (part I)

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In today’s Canberra Times, Athol Yates highlights the foreign policy use of the ADF. He states:

Employing the military internationally for both hard (military) and soft (non-military) power purposes has become an effective sign of the government’s international relations intent. For example, having the Air Force’s C-17 with its distinctive Australian livery arrive in Japan following last year’s tsunami visibly signals Australia’s solidarity with the country far more than providing funds to country-independent organisations such as the Red Cross or funds such as the Pacific Disaster Appeal.

Another example is the relationship between the SASR and Indonesia’s special forces unit Kopassus as an important part of Australia-Indonesia relations and an extension of Australia’s regional foreign policy goals.

The relationship has been an important component of rebuilding Australia-Indonesia military ties after they were cut in 1999 in response to allegations of human rights abuses by TNI in East Timor. The reinstatement of SASR-Kopassus ties in 2003 simultaneously addressed a need to further develop a counter terrorism capability as well as repair the defence relationship.

The units now conduct a number of training exercises, sharing skills and cooperation in areas such as counter terrorism and jungle warfare. The relationship has also extended into other capability areas with a number of Kopassus members undertaking Defence-sponsored English language study from May to June this year, supervised by SASR personnel.

Part II: More on special forces units and foreign policy

Image taken by Corporal Ricky Fuller, courtesy of Department of Defence.

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Indonesia week on Security Scholar

Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono is visiting Australia from today and so I’ll be writing short posts on Indonesia this week and, where possible, live tweeting some of the events broadcast on TV.

Accompanied by a delegation of ministers, SBY will meet with Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Darwin for the second annual Indonesia-Australia Leaders’ Meeting. Hopefully, it will also be an opportunity to discuss the upcoming Defence White Paper in 2013.

The full text of the Joint Communiqué from the inaugural meeting in Bali can be found here. In terms of defence and security, this passage is of note:

Our cooperation on traditional and non-traditional security issues has never been stronger, underpinned by the Lombok Treaty and its Plan of Action. We reaffirmed our commitments under the Treaty, including to one another’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Australia was pleased to announce it would provide support to a new Indonesian Armed Forces Peacekeeping centre.

Reinforcing our comprehensive security cooperation, both leaders directed senior officials of both countries under the Security Cooperation Consultation Group to review existing cooperation, and to coordinate and set priorities under the Plan of Action of the Lombok Treaty.  Both leaders also further encouraged the finalisation of the Defense Arrangement as a basis for an enhanced defense cooperation between the two countries.

In light of discussion on Australia-Indonesia defence cooperation, encouraged in particular by Prof Hugh White, this seems an appropriate departure point at the political level for deepening ties. More on Lombok later this week.