Indonesia says it does not want to join patrols with Malaysia and Singapore of the Malacca Strait.
The Indonesian defence minister, Juwono Sudarsono, says joint patrols would remove each country's sovereign rights, allowing forces from the other nations to enter their territory as they wished.
But wait -Some coordination may be okay but not too much cooperation?
The government of Indonesia wishes that the format of joint coordinated patrol of the three littoral countries -- Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia -- still applies to the maintenance of security in the Malacca Strait.(source)
"We (Indonesia) do not want the format of the existing joint coordinated cooperation to lead to the removal of a certain littoral country's security right which will then be replaced by another country," Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said here on Monday.
After attending a hearing with the House's Commission I, Juwono said in the joint coordinated patrol, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have their own authority to secure their respective sovereign territory in the Malacca Strait.
But, he added, if the format of cooperation is to be replaced by a joint patrol, one of those littoral countries should be appointed as the commander to safeguard the 500 km waterway.
"So the form of the existing cooperation is seen as the best format ever made by the three littoral countries to secure the Malacca Strait," Juwono said.
Furthermore, the defence minister stressed that the care of a number of countries like Japan and the United States to help the security in the Malacca Strait is a positive matter as long as their assistance is not provided in the form of military forces.
"As to the issue of security in the Malacca Strait, the key remains in the hand of the three littoral countries -- Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. If certain advanced countries want to give an assistance, it is advisable to be in the form of capacity building, but not in the form of military forces or deploying warships," he said.
Let me see, if they coordinate their efforts then they can maintain their sovereign rights without giving anything up, I guess. Except that if an Indonesian group commits "sea robbery" in Malaysian waters (it can't be piracy because piracy only happens on the "high seas" and is pursued by Malaysian forces up to the point where the Indonesian group enters Indonesian or Singaporean waters, then there is no reason for the Indonesian or Singapore forces to arrest the robbers because they haven't committed a crime in their waters and Malaysian forces can't pursue them into another country's territorial waters. (Update: see the legal discussion here.)
What a mess. And paranoid issues over sovereignty are not, to borrow a phrase from Sec Def, "helpful."