Indonesia and Australia signed a defense cooperation agreement on Wednesday that includes Australia setting up a depot in Indonesia for the maintenance of the four Hercules C-130 military aircraft that Australia granted to Indonesia in July, as well as a possible deal for another six planes to be transferred.
The agreement was signed by Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith, in Jakarta following inaugural two-day bilateral defense talks that concluded on Wednesday.
“This is the peak of our defense cooperation with Australia and we try to maintain this kind of relations for the benefit of the two countries,” Purnomo said in a joint press conference after the agreement signing.
Smith said the defense cooperation provided a framework for practical cooperation in counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, peacekeeping, maritime security and intelligence information sharing.
“I am looking forward to expanding our coordinated maritime joint patrol. The level of our joint exercises and trainings are at the highest level that we’ve seen for some two decades,” Smith said.
Australia’s minister of defense materiel, Jason Clare, who witnessed the signing, said that for almost 40 years Indonesia and Australia had worked together in mutual training and the exchange of officers, but cooperation in defense equipment had been limited.
He said a chance to achieve greater cooperation emerged at July talks in Darwin when Australia agreed to grant four Hercules C-130 aircraft to Indonesia.
“We began to explore the opportunities to work together today. The first area of opportunity is the C-130s and the maintenance of those aircraft,” Clare said.
Smith said he had proposed to Purnomo that Indonesia acquire six more aircraft in addition to the transfer of the four. “We have some that we will be able to sell to Indonesia,” Smith said. “We have about six that we could dispose of.”
But the proposal to acquire six airplanes from Australia would have to go through an administrative and political process before it could proceed, said Indonesia’s deputy defense minister, Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin.
“None of the three steps have taken place yet,” Sjafrie said. “We will start with the administrative process first and that means asking the Finance Ministry whether we have the budget for that, and simultaneously, we will go through the political process with the House of Representatives. Should everything go well, we can start with the purchasing process.”
By acquiring six more airplanes, Sjafrie said the Air Force would have 30 military transport aircraft, enabling the military to cover two trouble spots at the same time.
“We will have two airborne battalion that we could use for disaster relief efforts simultaneously,” he said.
Indonesia’s minister of research and technology, Gusti Hatta, who also witnessed the signing, said Indonesian and Australian officials and defense industry players would hold further talks to seek other ways to advance cooperation.
“Indonesia proposed mutual product sharing between Australia and Indonesia,” he said.
Clare said 20 Australian companies were expected to participate in a defense exhibition to be held in Jakarta in November, up from one just four years ago and 11 in the 2010 edition of the event.