Close ties have kept region stable, peaceful, says Indonesian minister

Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto (left) with Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at the Ministry of Defence at Gombak Drive on June 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore and Indonesia are not just close neighbours, but have also contributed to decades of peace and stability in the region by working together and maintaining good ties, said Indonesia's Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto.

Mr Prabowo, who met Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Friday (June 10), stressed that this close friendship and cooperation is vital, as transnational challenges such as piracy remain, and countries will need to work together to deal with them.

"We are destined by history to be neighbours. We are not only close neighbours, but because of our friendship and cooperation, we have contributed to quite a long period of peace and stability," said Mr Prabowo at a joint press conference with Dr Ng after their meeting.

"Together with Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Thailand, we have about four or five decades of stability, peace. Stability and peace is the key to prosperity."

Dr Ng echoed his Indonesian counterpart's comments, and said that the two countries have shared values and perspectives, on top of a shared history and geography.

"Both countries want to mutually benefit each other and the region, to press for international norms, so that both our countries and Asean can progress."

During their meeting at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) headquarters in Gombak Drive, the ministers reaffirmed the excellent state of the close and longstanding bilateral defence relationship between Singapore and Indonesia, said the ministry on Friday.

"They exchanged views on regional security challenges and discussed ways to enhance bilateral defence cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia."

Mr Prabowo is in Singapore from Thursday to Sunday, and will call on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as well as Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean. He will also be speaking at a session on managing geopolitical competition at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Saturday.

Mindef said Mr Prabowo's visit underscores the close and longstanding defence ties between Singapore and Indonesia, and that the defence establishments and armed forces of both countries have enjoyed decades of close friendship.

It added that the two countries continue to deepen their cooperation to tackle common regional security challenges. Their armed forces interact regularly through bilateral and multilateral exercises, joint training, high-level visits, professional exchanges and cross attendance of courses and seminars, said Mindef.

"These interactions build mutual understanding and enhance the professionalism and camaraderie between the two militaries."

The ministry also noted that both Dr Ng and Mr Prabowo had signed a Joint Statement at the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat in January. The statement reaffirmed both governments' commitment to bring into force the 2007 Defence Cooperation Agreement and its Implementing Arrangement between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Indonesian National Defence Forces (TNI) for the Military Training Area in Indonesia, as part of a set of agreements under an expanded framework.

The agreements were not able to be ratified initially, but both sides have committed to them again and will seek to have them ratified.

Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto inspecting the Guard of Honour with Singapore Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen at the Ministry of Defence at Gombak Drive, on June 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Mr Prabowo, a former three-star general who once commanded his country's special forces, said on Friday that the issue is now a "matter of procedure", and that Indonesia will ratify it through Parliament.

"We have good relations. I came here to reaffirm the good relations and to look for more ways that we can enhance our defence cooperation," he said.

Touching on transnational challenges, Mr Prabowo said that while both Singapore and Indonesia have just come out of a very difficult period with the Covid-19 pandemic, other issues, such as piracy, remain. This is why close friendship and cooperation between the two countries is vital, he added.

Agreeing, Dr Ng held up the work that the Indonesians have been doing, and said that such challenges would not be able to be dealt with if they are taken on alone.

Responding to a question on China and the United States, Mr Prabowo said that Indonesia considers both countries to be good friends, adding that his country could play a role in helping the two superpowers come to agreement.

"If two good friends have problems, (then) as a good friend, we have to maybe be a bridge so that we can find resolution," he said. "The planet is getting smaller and smaller. And we need the wisdom and benevolence of the great powers to maintain peace."

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