Witnessing the latest "border spat" between Indonesia and Malaysia over the Ambalat territory, one may immediately question: Is this really necessary? Another question would be: Is the dispute truly happening?
In response to the first question, many - perhaps most - of the both Indonesian and Malaysian citizens, would certainly say the oil-rich territory is worth fighting for.
Why? Because the dispute centers over claims to the ownership of the territory which consists of two blocks with potentially huge oil and gas reserves.
Ambalat is a 15,235 square kilometer maritime area located off the coast of east Kalimantan, which both Indonesia and Malaysia claim to be theirs. Geologist Andang Bachtiar estimates that just one of the Ambalat blocks could hold as much as 764 million barrels of oil and 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Oil and gas have become very important commodities, especially as the world is in urgent need of energy sources and may face an oil crisis in the not-too-distant future.
Oil has become one of the most important factors in the ups and downs of the global economy. It is also oil which has triggered various conflicts in many parts of the oil-rich Middle East, including in the recently reduced Iraqi conflicts and in Iran.
Unless new sources of energy are discovered, the whole world will have to deal with a serious energy problem, sooner than predicted.
It would thus come as no surprise if Indonesia and Malaysia struggled to secure the Ambalat territory. It would be na*ve to say that neither country needs new sources of oil, including the reserves in Ambalat, especially since no reliable energy source has been discovered that could replace the world's depleting oil reserves.
The second question is of no less importance in observing all the "awkwardness" surrounding this dispute. Speculations were rife that the Ambalat dispute was merely a cover-up for a political campaign to win the sympathy of the Indonesian public ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
The most recent maritime border breach by a Malaysian warship on June 2 was not the first such breach by our neighboring country. Last year, Malaysia reportedly breached the border on 28 separate occasions. This year alone, Malaysian warships have allegedly trespassed across the border nine times.
Upon observing the frequency of violations of these Malaysian warships, it is surprising the Indonesian side, at least publicly, has not adopted more serious measures to confront Malaysia.
Assuming Indonesian warships are obsolete and have out-of-date equipment, the Indonesian Navy is surely not completely toothless against the Malaysian fleet.
Aside from speculations that the Ambalat dispute has been part of a high-ranking political scenario to win the Indonesian public's sympathy ahead of the July 8 presidential election, should the dispute continue and remain unsettled, won't it only create disharmony, not just between the two neighboring governments, but most importantly among citizens of both countries?
Geopolitics-wise, a prolonged dispute between the two countries would create instability at least within Southeast Asia and could disrupt the unity of ASEAN.
Wasn't it unpleasant enough when we witnessed the sensitive issues surrounding the treatment of the TKI (Indonesian Migrant Workers) in Malaysia, or the recent dispute over patent claims to cultural products such as batik designs and traditional dances?
It is widely feared that the Ambalat issue could add fuel to residual anger and resentment, mainly on the Indonesian side, since Indonesia lost its two islands - Sipadan and Ligitan - to Malaysia after The Hague-based International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Malaysia in December 2002.
A recent trivial wedding and family dispute involving Indonesian model Manohara Odelia Pinot and Kelantan Prince Tengku Muhammad Fakhry of Malaysia saw the emergence of the less well-known Lasykar Merah-Putih (The Red-and-White Paramilitary Unit), which has blatantly supported Manohara.
In the event that the Ambalat dispute continues, or worse expands into conflict, an emergence of angry militias similar to the Lasykar Merah-Putih, would not be inconceivable.
While leaders from Indonesia and Malaysia may be misguided in their policies, they are not necessarily aggressive. Also, they generally do not plan to start wars on the basis of cold-blooded calculations, but they may blunder into one if they lose control of the situation.
The last scenario, I am 100 percent certain, is not expected by either Indonesia and Malaysia. Thus, it is advisable, especially for Malaysia, not to provoke the border dispute into a dangerous war game by stopping the "border breaches" of its warships.
In the mean time, Malaysia and Indonesia should go back to the diplomatic table to settle the dispute. Or, if diplomatic channels fail, there is another elegant mechanism of dispute settlement - through a "battle in court".