What’s new from first Vietnam-Indonesia defense dialogue?

by Hanoi Times | June 27, 2019

The Hanoitimes – Deepened defense ties would help Hanoi and Jakarta both better solve bilateral and regional maritime issues.

Vietnam and Indonesia have held first defense dialogue in Hanoi early this week as part of efforts to strengthen their relations and partnership in the course of escalating tensions in the contested South China Sea.

Vietnamese Defense Minister, General Ngo Xuan Lich and Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense Vice Admiral Agus Setiadji in Hanoi. Photo: VNA

Vietnamese Defense Minister, General Ngo Xuan Lich and Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense Vice Admiral Agus Setiadji in Hanoi. Photo: VNA

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Defense, Sen. Lt. Gen. Nguyen Chi Vinh and Secretary General of the Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense Vice Admiral Agus Setiadji co-chaired the first Vietnam-Indonesia Defense Policy Dialogue in Hanoi on June 25, local media reported.

Both sides agreed to continue exchanging delegations, improving the efficiency of existing dialogue mechanisms, strengthening cooperation activities among armed forces, and seeking possibility to collaborate in defense industry following deepened efforts in personnel training, information sharing, and cooperation between armed forces over the past years, according to Vietnamplus.

The two countries will continue coordinating with and supporting each other at multilateral forums.

The Vietnamese side proposed a number of measures to enhance bilateral ties, including building coordination mechanisms at different levels between the two defense ministries, naval forces, and coast guard forces.

Notably, Vietnam proposed setting up and effectively operating hotlines while strengthening cooperation in diverse methods, such as joint patrol, legal experience exchange, joint exercise on anti-smuggling and illegal fishing, along with researching of sea environment and legal communications for fishermen.

At the dialogue, the two sides shared information of each country’s defense policies while discussing security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, and cooperation within the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and ADMM Plus, and preparations for Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship in 2020.

On the same day, Vietnamese Defense Minister, General Ngo Xuan Lich hosted a reception for Vice Admiral Agus Setiadji, speaking highly of the cooperation between the defense ministries after the signing in 2017 of a Joint Vision on Defense Cooperation in the 2017-2022 period.

Lich believed the first Vietnam-Indonesia defense dialogue is a highly practical mechanism which creates favorable conditions for leaders of both countries to share their viewpoints on the global and regional situation of mutual concerns.

Vice Admiral Agus Setiadji expressed his delight at the friendship and all-round cooperation between the two countries over the past years, including defense partnership.

The Indonesian official agreed with Vietnam’s proposals on fishermen issues. Of them, the two countries agreed to end force on fishers of either country but in humane spirit as their purpose is simply making a living.

Vietnam-Indonesia defense dialogue. Photo: VNA

Vietnam-Indonesia defense dialogue. Photo: VNA

Requiring coverage of broader issues

The Diplomat said that while fishing incidents are just the latest news, it also points to the broader challenge Jakarta and Hanoi both face in managing illegal fishing and broader maritime issues within their wider relationship, including completing negotiations on their maritime boundaries.

Indeed, one of the challenges in Indonesia-Vietnam relations has been in the maritime domain. Despite developing the bilateral relations from a comprehensive partnership in 2003 to a strategic partnership in 2013 with efforts to establish a coordination mechanism for protecting fishermen and fishing vessels, countering maritime crimes, and working towards better collaboration between their coast guards, addressing this issue has proven difficult.

The difficulty of managing fishing and maritime issues is rooted in various factors. And addressing it requires a multifaceted approach including agreements on disputed boundaries themselves, adequately policing waters, educating fishermen, and establishing clear rules of engagement and lines of communication between forces on both sides.

All this takes time to forge, let alone to then implement and enforce, according to The Diplomat.

The two countries are now in the midst of boundary negotiations which would have a direct impact on how these sorts of incidents are managed. If Indonesia and Vietnam can make clear advances on some measures they have already discussed, whether it be on boundary negotiations or coordination among their various forces, these measures can at least help them better manage incidents.

June 27, 2019

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