Spying stand-off between Australia and Indonesia could hit border security and Counter terrorism : worldleaks
Counter-terrorism and border security sources say the stand-off over spying could have a severe effect on operations if the row is not resolved and Indonesia stands firm on its threat to downgrade co-operation. While there remains some doubt about the breadth and depth of Jakarta’s cuts to co-operation with Australian authorities, experts warn that any halt to Federal Police work with Indonesian counterparts could in particular set back progress.
”It could undermine the whole of the current government’s people-smuggling initiatives,” one security source said.
Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said about 30 Australian officers are continuing their work in Indonesia for now, but pointedly denied to be drawn on whether they might be affected further down the track.
”They’re there at the moment. We have 30 people working in Indonesia and the relationship over the years has been a very healthy one. That’s all I’m prepared to say on it,” he said.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called an end to some joint military exercises, joint maritime patrols on people-smuggling and some intelligence sharing – though he did not note the police co-operation.
A lightning-rod situation could improve if Australia were to pick up asylum seekers in Indonesia’s maritime search-and-rescue zone and attempt to take them back to Indonesia. This has been done at least once since the Abbott government took power. But one Defence source said it would be ”a very big call” to try now, given the tensions.
Joint people-smuggling maritime patrols planned for early next year will go ahead, only there will be no ”cross-deck” co-operation in which sailors from each nation are embedded on the other navy’s ships.
Members of Australia’s elite SAS regiment were preparing to head home early after the ”Dawn Komodo” joint counter-hijack and hostage recovery exercise with Indonesian counterparts Kopassus was cancelled.
Dave McRae, an Indonesia expert from the Lowy Institute who is currently in the country, said Dr Yudhoyono had little opinion but to be firm, ”given that the Australian government had given him nothing to work with publicly”.
”But he also indicated his preferred course to move past this row, and in that sense his remarks had a measured element to them. It’s clearly not at the level of the East Timor crisis.”
Nick O’Brien, a former counter-terrorism policeman with Britain’s Special Branch, now head of the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security at Charles Sturt University, said co-operation since the Bali bombing had been ”an Australian-Indonesian success story”. ”It would be tragic if that were lost. The only losers will be the Australian and Indonesian people.”
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