KUALA LUMPUR -- If timing matters in the art of diplomacy, then those responsible for the death of Noordin Mohammad Top did the foreign services of Indonesia and Malaysia a big favor.
The killing of Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorist came as neighborly relations were sliding rapidly into a political abyss amid declarations of a "cultural war." Opportunists on the fringe were even calling for the real thing as the foreign ministers from both countries tried to mend a few broken fences torn apart over the historic origins of a traditional dance.
"As for Noordin M Top, while Indonesians were happy to see the end of him, the fact that he was a Malaysian was another complaint they had about their neighbors," said Keith Loveard, a Jakarta-based security analyst with Concord Consulting. According to Loveard, the general attitude in Indonesia was that not only did Malaysians steal Indonesian culture, they exported terrorism too. "It's a pretty childish argument, but it was the way many people felt."