Examining the Concept of a Special Relationship: A Study of Indonesia-Malaysia Relations


The aim of this paper is to examine the concept of a special relationship. A special relationship is a close relation between two states founded on two sources of closeness, that of the two states' common identities and shared strategic interests. The paper develops a theoretical framework based on constructivist theory in order to explain what is a special relationship as well as the dynamics of a special relationship. It uses the histories of the relationships between two states bound by their common identities, in particular the histories of Anglo-American and US-Canada relations from the 1850s to the 1960s, to substantiate its arguments. The paper argues that it was because both Indonesia and Malaysia each possessed a necessary amount of power that led to them forming their special relationship in late 1965. It then argues that Indonesia-Malaysia relations, as a special relationship, produce double-edged effects, that of substantial cooperation and substantial conflicts, between the two states. Meanwhile, the Indonesia-Malaysia Special Relationship, like other special relationships, constitutes a security regime, which means the two states are committed to avoiding war between them. Because of this commitment, the substantial conflicts between Indonesia and Malaysia will not easily become violent ones. The paper makes two contributions to the existing literature on International Relations: it develops an understanding of a special relationship with theoretical foundations; it strengthens the existing understanding of Indonesia-Malaysia relations by providing an explanation of the interplay of power and common identities in the relationship.

Author Information
Ho Ying Chan, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia

Paper Information
Conference: ACSS2016
Stream: International Relations & Human Rights

This paper is part of the ACSS2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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