Indonesia is the world's largest archipelagic state. By the latest official count, the archipelago consists of 18,108 islands, which lie scattered between the mountainous island of Breueh in the west and tiny Sibir Island in Humboldt Bay (Teluk Yos Sudarso) in the east, and between Miangas in the north and Dana in the south. Indonesia's islands range in size from New Guinea, Borneo and Sumatra, respectively the second, third and sixth largest islands in the world, to tiny islets with only local names (see Map 1.1). Situated between longitude 97°E and 141°E and between latitude 6°N and 11°S, Indonesia comprises 2.8 million square kilometres of water (including 92,877 square kilometres of inland waters) and 1,826,440 square kilometres of land. If Indonesia's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), stretching beyond the archipelago, is included, Indonesia's area of sea expands to 7.9 million square kilometres.
Indonesia's archipelagic character creates two distinct but intertwined problems of governance. First, by separating Indonesia's landmass into islands, the sea creates special challenges of communication, coordination and even identity. Governing the land is made more difficult by the intervening presence of the sea. Second, the seas that lie between and around these islands need to be governed. These seas represent a major strategic, economic and cultural resource for Indonesia; they cannot be ignored, yet governing the maritime zone poses enormous practical difficulties.
ON BEING AN ARCHIPELAGO
Indonesia's status as an archipelago has important consequences both for its identity as a nation and for its character as a state. Although Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, confidently asserted that even a child could see that the arc of islands between Asia and Australia constituted a single national unit (Sukarno 1961: 11), most observers look at Indonesia's geography and see the potential for fragmentation rather than a self-evident whole. To many people, islands seem destined by their very nature for separate existences and Indonesia's unity consequently has appeared to be fragile, artificial, perhaps even imaginary. The closest geographical analogy to Indonesia, moreover, is a model of fragmentation. The Caribbean archipelago, 7,000-odd tropical islands stretched between two continents, is marked by cultural diversity and a long colonial history. Known to much of the world as the West Indies, it has a culturally diverse population of around 40 million. But it is divided into 27 independent states and dependent territories.