World

Australia denies trying to 'recruit' Indonesian soldiers

SYDNEY: Australia yesterday rejected claims it tried to recruit Indonesia's best soldiers as Jakarta moved to tone down a rift after suspending military ties.

Both revealed yesterday that military cooperation had been put on ice last month after teaching materials deemed offensive to Indonesia were found at an Australian army base in Perth. Joint exercises and exchange programmes were halted after a visiting officer raised concerns about the materials.

Indonesia's military chief Gatot Nurmantyo said it involved "unethical stuff" which "discredits Indonesia and its military, even the nation's ideology".

"It's about soldiers in the past, East Timor, Papuan independence and 'Pancasila'," he said, referring to the country's founding philosophy.

The ABC broadcast footage yesterday of General Nurmantyo voicing fears during a lecture last November that Canberra was trying to recruit soldiers training in Australia.

He said in translated remarks: "Once I became chief commander of the national forces, it (soldiers sent to Australia) did not happen again. They will certainly be recruited."

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne denied Canberra targeted Indonesian soldiers to be potential agents, saying "it is something which we would not countenance of course".

Despite military ties being suspended, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said relations with Canberra remained robust.

"I think the relationship between Indonesia and Australia is in good condition, but perhaps on the operational level it still needs to be discussed so things will not heat up."- AFP

Australiaindonesiapolitics