A defense agreement that will grant Canberra the privilege to deploy vessels into Indonesian waters won’t breach the country’s territorial sovereignty, a top military commander confirms.
Indonesian Military (TNI) chief, Adm. Agus Suhartono, said the agreement with Australia would come into effect soon.
“Our sovereignty will remain safe. Access will be granted only in humanitarian circumstances,” Agus told The Jakarta Post late Thursday.
Defense Ministry chief spokesman, Brig. Gen. Hartind Asrin, had earlier confirmed that a defense forum in early September would include the signing of agreements between Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith.
The agreements will authorize Australian vessels entry into Indonesian waters under certain circumstances; primarily if a vessel in distress needs immediate emergency assistance.
Even though Australian ships will be allowed to cross the maritime borders, there will still be specific zones that will be off-limits to foreign vessels.
“The agreement will specify an area along the border, which Australian ships will be allowed to enter. If the threshold is set at 5 nautical miles, for instance, Australian vessels would be allowed to help a boat in that area within a range of five miles from Indonesia’s maritime border,” Agus said.
If the boat in distress was further than 5 miles inside the border, the Australians would not be allowed to help, even if they were already near the border, he added.
“We are now working on this threshold. We have yet to determine how many nautical miles would be best,” Agus said.
He denied reports that, under the agreement, Australian ships would be permitted to freely enter Indonesian waters.
“It won’t be like many may have imagined. Australian vessels will still be required to notify us first before entering our waters,” Agus said.
Hartind had previously said the Defense Ministry and the TNI were collaborating with the Indonesian Maritime Security Coordinating Board (Bakorkamla) and the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) to work on the upcoming treaty.
These two agencies will play significant roles in implementing the agreement, Hartind said.
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 plane 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.
Agus denied the freer access set to be granted to Australian vessels was in return for the Hercules. “[The treaty] has nothing to do with [the Hercules],” he said.