After accusing Singapore last week of trying to undermine a defence pact with Indonesia, Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono has said that talks between the two countries will resume. He even expressed hope that the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) could be ratified next year.
"The heads of the governments from the two countries have agreed that negotiations must continue," Mr Juwono told the Indonesian news agency Antara on Monday. The talks would be led by the respective foreign ministers, he added.
In remarks published in The Jakarta Post, Mr Juwono was also quoted as saying that he aims to "have the treaty (DCA) ratified in 2008" — a contention that drew scepticism from analysts.
Mr Yang Razali Kassim, senior fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), told Today: "Mr Juwono may well aim to have the DCA ratified by 2008. But whether it will be indeed ratified by 2008, or at all, will depend on the dynamics of legislative politics in the DPR (parliament)."
Mr Juwono`s latest remarks came after Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda told the Indonesian media that he had been ordered by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to continue negotiations on the defence pact despite protests from Indonesian politicians.
The Indonesian news portal detik.com quoted Mr Hassan as saying on Thursday that Jakarta is "not closing the door as if the process had been frozen".
The DCA and an extradition treaty were signed by both countries as a package in April. But many Indonesian politicians have complained that the defence pact — which, among other things, allows Singapore soldiers to train on Indonesian territory — undermines the country`s sovereignty.
The Yudhoyono government has asked for changes to be made to three of the four implementing agreements (IAs) accompanying the treaties. According to Singapore`s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Republic could not agree to the changes and "had made a proposal to Indonesia on how to move the process forward".
Analysts told Today they are not ruling out the possibility of more snags along the way, Even before the DCA was presented to parliament, Mr Yang said, the key DPR commission handling foreign and security affairs had already taken a rejectionist stand on the treaty.
But another analyst pointed out that it wasn`t just Indonesian politicians who were opposed to the defence pact.
Dr Nankyung Choi, also of the RSIS, said: "Another interesting development to note is that local people in the Riau Archipelago have strongly objected to the agreement, mostly because of their concerns over (the impact of) military activities on environment and the investment climate."
Indonesian political scientist, Mr Daniel Dhakidae, described Mr Juwono`s latest statements as a "face-saving step" on the part of the Indonesian government. "Without improvements in several fields (of the DCA) … I foresee a bumpy road ahead," said Mr Dhakidae, who heads the Jakarta-based organisation Partnership for Good Governance in Indonesia.
He cited jurisdiction as one contentious issue that needs to be tackled.
"There is no clear borderline between the Indonesian `backyard` in places where Singapore`s Navy will be doing military exercises, and Singaporean `frontyard`, where they can move around freely."
Another Indonesian analyst based in Singapore believes that it is now up to the Yudhoyono government to convince DPR members that the defence pact is crucial to Indonesia` s national interests.
Dr Bahtiar Effendy, who is with RSIS, said: "If they (DPR members) are kept in the dark, there are going to be more snags."
Source: www.channelnewsasia.com (12 Juli 2007)