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Commentary: Singapore-Indonesia relations at 50, delicate yet interdependent

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SINGAPORE: On Thursday (Sep 7), Singapore and Indonesia celebrated 50 years of bilateral ties.

Among other events designed to mark the golden jubilee, SingPost and Pos Indonesia issued a coral reef commemorative stamp set. According to SingPost, the delicately interdependent ecosystems of coral reefs are supposed to symbolise “the many ways in which Singapore and Indonesia are working together".

Indeed, delicate yet interdependent is an apt way to describe the nature of Singapore-Indonesia relations in the past 50 years. A closer look at the nature of this relationship reveals useful lessons for leaders of both countries.

The Singapore-Indonesia joint stamp issue. (Photo: SingPost)


Singapore and Indonesia relations have come far since its precarious beginnings. Following the turbulent years of Konfrontasi from 1963 to 1966, bilateral relations between the two countries were established in 1967.

Bilateral relations and trade cooperation blossomed from the 1970s through to the 1990s under the leadership of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and President Suharto.

Natural resource-rich Indonesia became a major investment destination for companies listed in Singapore, and the two countries developed a symbiotic relationship that involved collaboration into areas of mutual benefit.

The close relationship between the two leaders helped chart out the direction for the bilateral relationship, leading to strong growth in cooperation in other areas like defence, where both militaries would train together and frequently conduct joint exercises.

The fall of Suharto in 1998 brought wide-ranging reforms in Indonesia that briefly resulted in more challenging interactions as Singapore adjusted to successive post-Suharto governments and decentralisation.

As a whole, however, bilateral relations continued to flourish, as both sides realise benefits of cooperation in key areas.

Indonesia today is one of Singapore’s main trade partners and Singapore consistently tops the list as the biggest source of foreign direct investment in Indonesia. Both countries also continue to play leading roles in ASEAN to shape a regional........

© Channel NewsAsia