By Phillip Orchard
Australia put a long-running dispute with East Timor to rest last week when the pair signed a landmark maritime boundary agreement that will substantially boost Timorese control over oil and gas deposits in the Timor Sea. By doing so, however, Canberra may be reopening an old wound with its more important yet leery neighbor to the north, Indonesia. In response to the deal, Jakarta announced that it intends to revisit its own sea borders treaty with Australia that it reached in 1997 before East Timor seceded from Indonesia. The treaty was never ratified, partly because it failed to give equitable control over seabed resources in accordance with international maritime law. The Timor-Australia deal merely underscores the treaty’s disparities.
Still, the border dispute is bound to be an issue, even if it’s only a mild one, in a country as geographically fractured and as politically variegated as Indonesia, whose social, cultural and physical cleavages will prev