“What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural.”
– Joseph Heller Catch 22

So much for the recent spat between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Some would say that all the spitting was coming across from the south rather than the north of the Melaka Straits. But that depends on your point of view.

The Indonesians have accused Malaysia of nicking much of Indonesian culture and calling it Malaysian, including a song which later became Malaysia’s national anthem “Negara Ku”. Flags have been burnt. There are shades of the Confrontation which we know happened in 19 …..

… of course, 1963, but you already knew that, didn’t you? (By the way, what was the Confrontation about again?)

Much has been written on the Malaysian / Indonesian issue and I don’t intend to stoke the flames. Not much anyway.

Malaysia and Indonesia have so much shared history and culture. Actually, that’s not so correct. It is peninsula Malaysia and Sumatra that share much common history and culture.

If the British and the Dutch did not divide the two countries between themselves in 1824, the map of modern Malaysia and Indonesia would be very different. What happened back then was a straight swap. Britain exchanged its settlement in Bencoolen, Sumatra for the Dutch’s settlement in Melaka on the peninsula. The cultural and historic links between the Malay peninsula and Sumatra was severed. The Dutch united the rest of the Malay archipelago into what it called the Dutch East Indies, which effectively drew the borders of Malaysia and Indonesia.

I wonder what would have happened if that Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 was never signed.

Would our modern map of the region look like this:


Just looking at the map sends a shiver up my spine. I wonder if I’ve broken any laws just by drawing it!

It is merely for the sake of hypothesis, that of alternate history. So please don’t arrest me! πŸ™‚

As I’ve said before, isn’t our history interesting?

(You can find out more about the issue in an excellent article in The Sun)