Indonesia and Australia have turned a corner in their efforts to restore bilateral relations after the upheaval caused by last year’s spying revelations, with Jakarta noting a “positive trajectory” after the latest meeting.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa says his talks with his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, at The Hague two weeks ago were very positive, with the pair to meet again soon.
Indonesia has invited Prime Minister Tony Abbott to attend an open government forum in Bali next month, and its ambassador – recalled at the height of the crisis – has been making more frequent trips to Canberra.
In the talks, Dr Natalegawa has stressed there should be “no surprises” in the future relationship.
In other words, no further revelations such as those leaked by US defence contractor Edward Snowden last year, when Indonesia learned Australia’s spy agency had been intercepting the mobile phone calls of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and his inner circle.
Dr Natalegawa says Indonesia has now “priced in” in its bilateral relationship the past intelligence activities of Australia, and also the thorny issue of pushing asylum seekers back to Indonesia.
Military, police and intelligence co-operation was frozen in November while a six-point “road map” to restore the relationship was negotiated.
Dr Natalegawa says he’s now confident the groundwork has been laid for step two – an ethical code of conduct.
“My sense is that we are now very much on a positive trajectory … in dealing with both the two issues we’ve been grappling with, the issue of the Snowden revelations as well as the issue of asylum seekers,” he told AAP on Monday.
The code of conduct will be a simple undertaking, in the form of “what we will do and what we won’t do”, the minister says.
He is in touch with Ms Bishop almost daily in an effort to resolve the issues quickly.
Dr Yudhoyono’s term is nearing its end and he no doubt wants to leave office in October with the legacy of strengthening ties with Australia.
But Dr Natalegawa says the matter is too important for a deadline.
“It’s not about the president, it’s not even about this present government,” he said.
“It’s about wanting to get to where we have been before, because in our view the recent developments must be seen as being an aberration.
“The trajectory over the past 10 years actually, during the president’s tenure, it has been a positive trajectory.”
Indonesia’s next president is most likely to be Jakarta’s popular governor, Joko Widodo, a foreign policy novice.
He may wish to retain the expertise of Australian-educated Dr Natalegawa for continuity.
But the minister says he is not yet thinking that far ahead.
“I’m just focusing on … making sure that we hand over the foreign policy portfolio in a good state to the next government,” he said.