John Butcher, an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of International Business and Asian Studies and Griffith Asia Institute recently published a book, co-authored with Emeritus Professor R. E. Elson explaining how Indonesia succeeded in its extraordinary claim to sovereignty over the waters that make up the Indonesian archipelago. At the heart of Indonesia’s archipelagic campaign was a small group of Indonesian diplomats. Largely because of their dogged persistence, negotiating skills, and willingness to make difficult compromises Indonesia became the greatest archipelagic state in the world.
Until the mid-1950s nearly all the waters lying between the far-flung islands of were as open to the ships of all nations as the waters of the great oceans. In order to enhance its failing sovereign grasp over the nation, as well as to deter perceived external threats to Indonesia’s national integrity, in 1957 the Indonesian government declared that it had “absolute sovereignty” over all the waters lying within straight baselines drawn between the outermost islands of Indonesia. At a single step, Indonesia had asserted its dominion over a vast swathe of what had hitherto been seas open to all, and made its lands and the seas it now claimed a single unified entity for the first time.
Read more information about the “Sovereignty and the Sea: How Indonesia Became an Archipelagic State” book by John G. Butcher, Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of International Business and Asian Studies and Griffith Asia Institute and R.E. Elson, Emeritus Professor of Southeast Asian History and the University of Queensland.