Aussie army chief to meet Indonesian military in wake of spat

JAKARTA • Australian army chief Angus Campbell will meet Indonesian military leaders in Jakarta on Wednesday, after defence cooperation was suspended last month over "insulting" teaching material found at an Australian base.

Lieutenant-General Campbell is due to meet Indonesian military (TNI) chief Gatot Nurmantyo and army chief of staff Mulyono, TNI spokesman Wuryanto said.

Indonesia's military chief declared the rupture in military ties after an Indonesian officer found "offensive" teaching material while on a language training course in Australia late last year.

General Nurmantyo said that the material "discredited the TNI, the nation of Indonesia and even the ideology of Indonesia", referring to material concerning the former East Timor and "Papua needing to be independent", as well as mocking the country's founding principles, known as Pancasila.

Both governments moved quickly to try to cool tensions and Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto later said only cooperation related to the military's Australia- based language training programme had been suspended.

Australian media said Lt-Gen Campbell would discuss the findings of an investigation by the Defence Department into the issue after Indonesia had sought assurances over the training material.

TNI spokesman Wuryanto declined to comment on the agenda for Wednesday's talks. A spokesman for Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne confirmed the visit but declined to comment further.

The countries have extensive military cooperation, which ranges from counterterrorism to border protection.

But they have had a rocky military relationship in recent years. Australia stopped joint training exercises with Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) after accusations of abuses by the unit in East Timor in 1999 as the territory prepared for independence.

Ties resumed when counterterrorism cooperation became imperative after the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Indonesia most recently suspended military ties in 2013 over revelations that Australian spies had tapped the mobile phone of then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2017, with the headline 'Aussie army chief to meet Indonesian military in wake of spat'. Print Edition | Subscribe