26 May 2015

Govt urged to get closer to Indonesia

8:36 am on 26 May 2015

The Government is being encouraged to boost security ties with Indonesia as it puts together its latest defence strategy

Victoria University analysts hope to see Indonesia acknowledged in the Government's 2015 Defence White Paper, which is now up for consultation.

Professor Robert Ayson, from the centre for stategic studies at Victoria University, said Indonesia did not even rate a mention in the last defence strategy document released in 2010.

"I think it's time to recognise Indonesia has experienced some really quite significant and positive changes. It's no longer the autocracy that it was, it's a modern democracy that has had several peaceful transitions of power."

The most recent of those changes was the election of President Joko Widodo in October last year.

Professor Ayson said if New Zealand wanted to play a role in security in the region, it may need to look beyond Indonesia's past occupation of East Timor and the current conflict in West Papua.

"It's crazy for us really not to have much of one and for Australia to have such a significant relationship with Indonesia.

"We know Australia's relationship with Indonesia has not always been easy, but we know also that Australia and Indonesia, as time goes on, will more likely get closer than further apart."

West Papua Action Auckland spokesperson Maire Leadbeater acknowledged Indonesia had made progress, but she did not see how the history could be ignored.

"The security forces associated with all of those events never seem to be brought to any kind of justice, so we're looking at a military that doesn't seem to be responsible to the civilian power and we believe it's completely wrong for New Zealand to be involved in giving them military training and support."

Professor Ayson said it was worth at least considering closer ties with Indonesia, because New Zealand had a lot to gain.

The updated Defence White Paper is expected to be released later this year.