Australia will get access to Indonesian seas
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Defense Ministry chief spokesman Brig. Gen. Hartind Asri (http://puskompublik.kemhan.go.id)
Australian vessels will be authorized to enter Indonesian waters for patrols after the two nations sign an agreement in a near future, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry says.
“We are now still working on the formula for the planned cooperation. We have established a working group, comprising representatives of related institutions, to work on this. No details have been finalized as of today,” Defense Ministry chief spokesman Brig. Gen. Hartind Asrin told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The agreement would likely be signed in September at a defense forum to be attended by Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith.
Hartind acknowledged that the proposed agreement would give Australian vessels freer access to Indonesian waters, under specific circumstances.
“One such condition is when it comes to SAR [search and rescue] missions. If there is a boat suffering an accident and the people in it are in danger, why would we prohibit others from helping?” Hartind said.
Among relevant agencies, the Indonesian Maritime Security Coordinating Board (Bakorkamla) and the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) will have a large role in implementing the agreement.
Talks on cooperation in the maritime sector between Indonesia and Australia have been under way since July 2, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Darwin, Australia, on July 2.
At that meeting, the two nations signed several agreements, including one for a grant of four refurbished C-130H Hercules heavy transport planes decommissioned by the Australian government to Indonesia.
Two weeks later, more specific talks were carried out during a meeting between Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and his Australian counterpart, Bob Carr, in Jakarta that focused on search and rescue preparations.
Sea emergencies have come into the spotlight following a series of tragic incidents in international waters between Indonesia and Australia, where boats packed full of migrants bound for Australia foundered in heavy seas, leading to multiple fatalities.
Recently, at least 50 migrants, mostly from the Middle East, died after their boat sank off Christmas Island, an Australian territory that is closer to Indonesia than it is to Australia.
Dozens more migrants have died at sea while on the way to Australia in multiple incidents in recent months.
Australian vessels are already regularly involved in operations in Indonesian waters, such as routine patrols and search-and-rescue missions.
Hartind acknowledged that the new agreement would make it easier for Australian vessels under “tight conditions […] only where there is a boat experiencing an emergency at sea, which is usually marked with a SOS signal,” he said.
“The rules of engagement must be set out in detail and comprehensively because this may affect the sovereignties of both countries,” Hartind added.
The spokesman denied that the agreement would authorize Australian vessels to enter Indonesian waters without prior authorization.
“Sovereignty is non-negotiable for all countries. If Australia wants such open access, we are not likely to grant that,” Hartind said.
Contacted separately, lawmaker TB Hasanuddin, who chairs the House of Representatives’ Commission I overseeing defense and foreign affairs, said the agreement must not allow Australia to impinge on Indonesian sovereignty.
“No foreign vessels may enter Indonesian territory without permission, even if it is for SAR efforts,” he said.