Economic Cooperation Between Indonesia & East-Timor: The Dilemmas Behind Strategic Decision

(Source: Special)

Jakarta, IO – The highlight in ASEAN news for the past few weeks, Indonesia has agreed that East-Timor will be included in the ASEAN agenda for 2023, which Indonesia will be the Chairmanship for this year. However, there are still some polemics among ASEAN countries in terms of their subjective assessment of EastTimor capacity to enter ASEAN – based on its reputation on the global stage. A discussion among academicians previously said that since Indonesia declared its independence, Indonesia still has unstable relations with EastTimor governments, especially about human rights issues. Both of the countries still have the same stigma and tension, moreover escalated by the trauma in 1999 when East-Timor decided to break away from Indonesia. 

In geographical location, EastTimor is located in the South EastAsia region which means it has the opportunity to be a member in ASEAN regional organization. However, since 2011, East-Timor still has not achieved its status as a member of ASEAN. There were still pros and cons among ASEAN members regarding EastTimor’s membership. Indonesia and Malaysia are the two main countries that most support East-Timor’s membership of ASEAN. On the other hand, Singapore and Laos still do not agree if East-Timor becomes part of ASEAN. The two countries that disagreed argued that East-Timor was not yet ready economically and politically, so it was not yet the time to join, moreover involving in the next level of economic movement in ASEAN. 

However, this has proven otherwise with changes in the dynamics and geopolitical constellation in ASEAN per se. On February 11, 2022, EastTimor became a member of ASEAN. Then, in February 2023, East-Timor legally became a member of ASEAN. Simultaneously, this year will be the right time for Indonesia as it becomes the chairman of the ASEAN Chairmanship 2023. Thus, Indonesia officially established more serious economic relations with EastTimor, marked by an agreement between Joko Widodo as President of the Republic of Indonesia and Taur Matan Ruak as Prime Minister of East-Timor to establish a bilateral investment treaty. Thus, what are the factors that cause Indonesia as chairman of ASEAN 2023 to want to establish this economic relationship? What dilemmas will arise in the future?