The Politics of Indonesia-Malaysia Relations: One Kin, Two Nations

The Politics of Indonesia-Malaysia Relations: One Kin, Two Nations

The Politics of Indonesia-Malaysia Relations: One Kin, Two Nations

The Politics of Indonesia-Malaysia Relations: One Kin, Two Nations

Synopsis

Relations between Malaysia & Indonesia present a prime example of tension between ethnically similar, but politically divided countries. This book traces the development of their rivalry, their differing interpretations of Indo-Malay history, & of the role played by suspicion about Javanese hegemony.

Excerpt

'To what extent is the factor of kinship a viable organizing principle for relations between two sovereign nation-states whose histories have intersected intimately, and whose populations continue to share socio-cultural affinities across territorial borders?' This question frames the present study of the evolution of political relations between Indonesia and Malaysia. Despite repeated claims by leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia that the people of their two countries are 'blood brothers' and of the same 'rumpun' (racial stock), bilateral relations between these two major states in the Indo-Malay world have regularly experienced rivalry and discord beneath such espousals of fraternity. This state of affairs, however, has not deterred many, including people in political leadership, from continuing to look to kinship for greater meaning and intelligibility in the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia. This book attempts to unravel the conundrums and contradictions in Indonesia-Malaysia relations generated by this tension between the historically intimate ties that link the peoples, cultures, and societies of these two states, and the need for the respective leaderships to look beyond sentimentality and romanticism in their conduct of political relations.

In the course of conceptualizing this book, the question arose on several occasions, not least in my own mind, how, in an international political arena broadly understood to be dominated by the pursuit of material interests, the concept of kinship can be deemed relevant as a framework for exploring Indonesia-Malaysia relations. At first glance, the rationale was obvious, and has already been stated above. Both states share a common history, and the legacy of this proximity, not just in territorial form but social and cultural as well, continues to broadly inform thinking on and the language of Indonesia-Malaysia relations (broadly, in the sense that this history informs our understanding not just of political relations, but of cultural, social, economic, religious relations etc.). Moreover, while it is easy for us in this era of the modern nation-state to dismiss 'primordial' motivations such as kinship (as expressed for example by the proponents of pan-Malayism), we must also recognize that such views represent what many people, including those in positions of leadership,

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