Indonesia will host the 2014 Komodo multilateral joint exercise to improve naval cooperation capabilities in disaster relief, in Riau Islands province, the Navy revealed on Friday.
Participants will come from 18 countries involving 28 warships and 4,500 sailors, director of the joint exercise, Commodore Amarullah Octavian, said on Friday.
“Batam and Natuna have been designated as the joint exercise area,” he told a preparation meeting at Swiss-Belhotel Harbour Bay.
Amarullah, who is Sea Combat Task Force chief of the Indonesian Navy Western Fleet, said the multilateral joint exercise would be held in early April 2014 at the latest.
The Indonesian Navy was currently preparing details of the multilateral joint exercise together with other stakeholders, he added.
“The exercise will focus on naval capabilities in disaster relief, but we will also pay attention to the aggressive stance of the Chinese government by entering the Natuna area,” said Amarullah.
“We want to explain that our foreign police stipulates that Natuna is part of Indonesia.”
He added there was a political agenda in the multilateral joint exercise that was to show to participating countries that Natuna was part of Indonesia.
“Currently there has been no claim from China over the Natuna area but we do not want the Sipadan-Ligitan incident to happen again,” said Amarullah.
China has been flexing its muscles and claimed most part of the South China Sea through the so-called nine dotted lines. While the claim has yet to encroach Natuna waters, many observers believe that China will eventually do so.
Amarullah said that the Indonesian Navy would distribute exercise maps that display Indonesian border delineations including Natuna.
“Therefore, diplomatically all countries have recognized all Indonesian borders,” he said.
He said that participating countries in the multilateral joint exercise included all 10 country members of ASEAN plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
The need to improve naval capabilities in disaster relief was felt after the Aceh tsunami, which was triggered by the Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake and affected countries around the Indian Ocean basin.
Meanwhile, Assistant to Batam City Secretary for Economic Affairs, Raja Supri, said that the city administration fully supported the planned multilateral joint exercise in Batam and Natuna and had prepared logistical support.
“We have prepared water taxis for exercise participants to commute between the warships and land,” he said.
“We will use modified pancung boats for the participants’ comfort.”
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to open the multilateral joint exercise.
The 18 countries will also take part in the Counter Terrorism Exercise (CTx) to be held at the Indonesian Peace and Security Center in Sentul, Bogor, in West Java in September.
The CTx will be cohosted by Indonesia and the United States as cochairs of a regional counterterrorism initiative under the ASEAN Defense Minister Meeting Plus framework.
Some 1,800 special forces operatives are expected to take part in the CTx.