2+2 Dialogue Signals New Era of Indonesia-Australia Co-operation

21 March 2012 FDI Team

Background

Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Defence Minister Stephen Smith met with their Indonesian counterparts Marty Natalegawa and Purnomo Yusgiantoro, in Canberra on 15 March, for the inaugural Australia-Indonesia Foreign and Defence Ministers’ (“2+2”) Dialogue.

Comment

In a joint communiqué, Mr Smith said, ‘Australia and Indonesia are working to expand defence and security co-operation and to bolster co-ordination on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, international peacekeeping, anti-piracy efforts and maritime security.’

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa formally acknowledged the benefits of the forthcoming rotations of US troopsin Darwin, saying that Australia had settled Indonesia’s doubts over plans to increase the US military presence in the region. ‘There is a general wish on the part of both countries to ensure that our region, namely the Asia-Pacific, continues to remain benign and peaceful and that we not revert to any conditions that would jeopardise that kind of already positive outlook,’ Mr Natalegawa said. ‘We don’t have a problem at all with the placement of the US Marines in Darwin.’[1]

On 16 November 2011, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and US President Barrack Obama announced a new agreement for up to 2,500 US Marines to be stationed in Darwin by 2017, to help protect US interests across Asia. The agreement initially received criticism from Indonesia as an attempt to contain China.

Mr Natalegawa said Indonesia wanted to take advantage of the Marines’ presence in Australia to facilitate disaster and humanitarian relief in the Asia Pacific region. Indonesia, which has a population of 239 million, is precariously located in a region prone to often-devastating earthquakes and tsunamis.  

Australia also accepted an Indonesian proposal to join in training exercises focussed on disaster relief. Looking to the future, Mr Smith also spoke of the possibility of other countries, including Indonesia and China, participating in US-Australian military exercises in Australia. 

Ashley Woermann

Future Directions International Research Assistant

Indian Ocean Research Programme

 

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[1] McGuirk, R., Jakarta Post, 15 March 2012, ‘Indonesia interested in US training in Australia’.

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