THE POST-COLONIAL SECURITY DILEMMA: Timor-Leste and the International Community.

AuthorSmith, Anthony

THE POST-COLONIAL SECURITY DILEMMA: Timor-Leste and the International Community

Author: Rebecca Strating

Published by: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore,

2019, 401pp, US$29.90.

East Timor's post-independence foreign policy is an important story to be told, so it is pleasing that La Trobe University academic Rebecca Strating has now given this a book length treatment. East Timor has had to find security while sandwiched between two very large neighbours, Indonesia and Australia. It has, since independence, undertaken massive efforts to reassure Indonesia that it will be a good neighbour, while standing up an armed force as insurance. That said, fundamental changes in Indonesia, now a consolidated democracy, have attenuated threat perceptions. Australia, largely a guarantor of East Timor's external and internal security, has nonetheless had a tense relationship with Dili, particularly on the question of energy resources in the Timor Gap, giving rise to noticeable anti-Australian sentiment. Increasingly, though, as Strating notes, the emergence of China, and great power rivalry, looms as another important consideration; while the impacts of climate change and associated environmental and human security challenges also feature highly now. The dilemma noted in the title is a reference to the fact that while East Timor is seeking external security, many of the most pressing challenges sit around internal cohesion--East Timor is simultaneously a small, weak, fragile and relatively new state.

Some of the earlier sections of this book look at East Timor's colonial experience, first through 400 years of Portuguese rule, and then through the brutal Indonesian invasion of 1975, until the independence vote of 1999. Strating does an excellent job of assessing the international community's response to Indonesia's occupation. Contrary to a once common media tagline that Australia was the 'only' country to formally recognise the occupation (New Zealand, unfortunately, was another), in fact Indonesia was supported by a number of (foundation) ASEAN countries (most notably Malaysia, although with serious reservations out of small state Singapore). In contrast, a large number of countries, especially within the Non-Aligned Movement as well as Lusophone states, did keep the issue of East Timor's statehood firmly alive through the UN system.

Strating's study of East Timor's foreign policy is rich and wide ranging. Looking at the post-independence...

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