JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - Indonesia and Singapore on Tuesday, Jan. 25 signed a series of key defense and diplomatic agreements that appeared to mark a turning point in relations between the Southeast Asian neighbors.
The agreement on defense cooperation — along with separate treaties on extradition and airspace rights — were signed in the presence of Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
“They have been on our bilateral agenda for several decades, we have worked together and discussed them many times before,” Lee said at a joint news conference with Jokowi.
The signing ceremony on the Indonesian resort island of Bintan, next to Singapore, followed on lengthy and difficult negotiations.
A similar defense agreement was first signed by the two countries in April 2007 but didn’t go into effect after opposition in Indonesia’s Parliament. With the new airspace and extradition agreements meeting many of Jakarta’s demands, it is widely expected that Indonesian lawmakers — the majority of whom belong to the government-led bloc — will pass the new treaties.
The extradition treaty will give Jakarta the ability to pursue high-profile Indonesian businessmen who are accused of embezzling billions of dollars after the 1997-1998 financial crisis and fled to the neighboring city-state if the treaties are ratified by lawmakers in both countries.
“In the future, it is hoped that cooperation in law enforcement, aviation safety, and defense and security of the two countries can continue to be strengthened based on the principle of mutual benefit,” Widodo said.
The defense cooperation agreement will significantly boost Singapore's ability to carry out naval and military exercises amid regional tensions over China's rise. The island city-state lacks maritime, land, and airspace to effectively train its military. Indonesia, which holds huge land and maritime areas, has agreed to let Singapore carry out naval exercises with other nations in the Bravo area of the South China Sea four times a year — terms which previously riled up Indonesian lawmakers.