Indonesia suspends military cooperation with Australia over offensive material

04 January 2017

Indonesia said today that it had suspended military cooperation with Australia, which had been a close partner in the fight against terrorism, after material deemed offensive to Indonesians was found on an Australian military base.

Officials did not describe the material, but according to reports in the Indonesian news media, a laminated paper found at an Australian special forces base had insulted Pancasila, a state ideology that mandated belief in monotheism and unity among Indonesia's 250 million people. In Indonesia the most populous Muslim nation, blasphemy is illegal.

''The suspension will remain in effect until the technical matters are corrected,'' said major general Wuryanto, a spokesman for Indonesia's military, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. ''There is no time limit. The Australian side has responded very well, and they claim to understand.''

Indonesia and Australia had developed close military and economic ties, and Jakarta had received hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid annually from Australia. Indonesia and Australia had cooperated on fighting terrorism ever since bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. The US also considered the two countries as a bulwark against Chinese naval expansion in the region.

Meanwhile Indonesian officials said today that the military had acted on its own when it suspended cooperation with Australia's armed forces last week.

A spokesman for Indonesian president Joko Widodo said no discussion had taken place and the issue had been exaggerated.

"This was not a decision of the president," spokesman Johan Budi told Reuters.

Ties with Australia were "just fine", said defence minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, adding that he only came to know about the matter on today.

"We need to look at this properly first, not just from one side," he added.

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