Indonesian police have now stopped any co-operation with Australia over counter-terrorism as a result of the phone tapping revelations in an indication that the crisis is escalating not diminishing.
And Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has again highlighted the lack of the word “sorry” in Tony Abbott’s letter last week to the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Asked if the process to negotiate a new bilateral relationship between the two countries was a “long road ahead,” Mr Natalegawa laughed and said: “Ah, the Long and Winding Road — what’s that other song called? Sorry seems to be ….?”, in an apparent reference to the Elton John song, Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word.
Indonesia has outlined a six-step process before it will lift its ban on co-operation with Australia on defence, police and security issues.
Mr Natalegawa suggested it may be mid to late next year before that co-operation can resume. Meanwhile, he said, “the full weight of the implications [of Indonesia’s withdrawal of cooperation] are now being channelled”.
National police chief Sutarman told the Indonesian parliament that there was now no co-operation between his forces on counter-terrorism, information sharing and international crime. This takes the implications of the dispute well beyond simply asylum seekers.
Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said three joint exercises with Australian troops had been cancelled — one involving the elite Kopassus special forces troops, one in Darwin and another, a navy counter-terrorism exercise in Manado, North Sulawesi, later this month.
He denied there would be any disadvantage for Indonesia over these suspensions.
“Joint exercises are important, co-ordinating patrols are important, but how can we do it if there is lack of trust among the crews or among the soldiers?” Mr Purnomo said.
Dr Yudhoyono has insisted that, before the relationship between the two countries gets back to normal, he wants a new code of ethics on intelligence and the broader relationship to be negotiated, drawn up, signed, implemented and tested. He has outlined a six-step process to achieve this.
Asked how long this might take, Mr Natalegawa said: “It really depends”.
“Time is a relative thing. You know, it’s really how urgent we want to get it done. We are more than happy to engage as soon as possible … Now the ball is with Australia. Australia must restore the trust that’s gone as the consequence of the tapping which they conducted.”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has suggested that a “round table” could be quickly formed to discuss these matters, and has not yet committed to the suggested “code of ethics”.
But Mr Natalegawa has made it clear that the full process must be followed, including a joint signing by both leaders at a bilateral meeting. The next bilateral leaders meeting is not scheduled to occur until late in 2014. The two leaders also meet on the sidelines of numerous other international forums such as APEC, the G20, the United Nations and the East Asia Forum. There are around six such meetings a year, but most have already occurred.
The leaders can also arrange an ad hoc meeting, if Indonesia agrees, but much of next year in Indonesia will be consumed by both parliamentary and presidential elections.
Mr Natalegawa said that, of the six-step process, his conversations with Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop were not even the first step. They were simply “a precondition towards a stepping stone to discussing a code of conduct”.
“The first step in this process is establishing communication and addressing those issues that are still left unanswered in the communications from the Prime Minister,” Mr Natalegawa said.
“So having this first step communication will be very important to see whether there is sufficient reservoir of potential for us moving to the next step — namely the discussion on the code of conduct itself.”
The third step was for the Indonesian president to consider the protocol and endorse it; the fourth for it to be signed by the two leaders at a meeting. The fifth step is implementing the protocol with “time to allow for evaluation that it has been implemented”.
Step six is: “Re-establishment and revival of a sense of trust before we can proceed to look at the bilateral co-operations”.
How fast all that happened, he said, was “up to Australia”.