Do you know that MalaysiaÊs foreign relations with other countries began since
the Malacca Sultanate? At the time, the Malacca Sultanate had trade relations with
countries like India, Siam, China, Persia, Arabia, Japan and the countries around
the Malay Archipelago. This tradition continued until Malaya achieved her
independence. In this modern age, especially in the era of globalisation, a country
cannot exist in isolation. The current demands calls for countries to depend on
one another for mutual benefits, especially politically, economically and socially.
Hence, every country in todayÊs world needs to have relations with other
countries to achieve this objective. However, every country is free to determine its
own foreign policies based on cultural factors and credibility.
DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL FOREIGN
POLICY AFTER INDEPENDENCE
MalaysiaÊs foreign policy, which was formed since independence, has gone
through four stages between different leaders.
(a) Tunku Abdul Rahman (1957-1970), MalaysiaÊs foreign policy was Pro-
Western and anticommunist considering the nation had only just achieved
independence and faced the threat of communism.
TTooppiicc 1122 National
3. Discuss the importance of having foreign relations.
2. Discuss current issues involving MalaysiaÊs foreign relations; and
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Identify MalaysiaÊs foreign policies since Independence;
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(b) Tun Abdul Razak Hussein (1970-1976), MalaysiaÊs foreign policy emphasises
development and social integration by having diplomatic ties with all
countries without bias on political ideologies.
(c) Tun Hussein Onn (1976-1981), foreign policy emphasised on defence
cooperation and national security.
(d) Tun Mahathir Mohamad (1981-2003), the national foreign policy placed
importance on economic ties and maintaining previous policies. Issues of
peace and international social justice were also important agendas.
12.1.1 The Approach of Malaysia’s Foreign Policy
The two main approach were:
(a) Bilateral involves relations with one country only; and
(b) Multilateral involves relations with several countries as a group, such as the
UN, Asean, OIC and so on.
12.1.2 Drafting of National Foreign Policy
Why the need for a foreign policy? Let us look at the following concerns:
(a) Geostrategic Environment
MalaysiaÊs location is very strategic, being at the maritime crossroad
between the Pacific and Indian Oceans that are the main passages for the
Southeast Asia region. Most trade between the Middle East and Far East
passes through the Straits of Malacca. This is why it is necessary for
Malaysia to maintain friendly ties with foreign countries to ensure the
StraitsÊ waters are peaceful, safe and free from external pressures.
(b) Political Structure of the Country
MalaysiaÊs democratic political system always maintains avenues to foster
ties with other countries. Malaysia practises a democratic system that
supports freedom and prosperity of the people. Malaysia also practises
freedom in having ties with any country, specifically countries that offer
benefits to the development of Malaysia.
Demographically, Malaysia comprises many races and ethnicities. Each race
is entitled to receive equal rights, as the Bumiputras. The many races of the
country have ties with their original homelands, like China and India. This
further strengthens ties between Malaysia and those countries.
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(d) National Security
Security is an important element in any country became surely, no one
would like to be threatened by enemies. Thus, national security is an
important agenda that influences MalaysiaÊs foreign policy. Malaysia, being
in a strategic position, has to be guarded against infiltration by pirates and
terrorists. With that in mind, Malaysia has to foster ties with foreign nations
to jointly combat terrorism.
(e) Historical Factors
Relations with foreign countries are also linked to historical backgrounds.
For example, MalaysiaÊs ties with Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei are
important, as historically, those countries were part of the Malay cluster. The
same applies to MalaysiaÊs relations with the Commonwealth nations, as
member countries are also former colonies of the British. MalaysiaÊs ties
with West Asia and East Asia are also related to historical links during the
(f) Economic Factors
In this era, the progress of a country is determined by its economic success.
Due to this factor, Malaysia maintains ties with other countries to boost her
economy. Foreign policy also enables technology to be transferred to
Malaysia. As trading partnerships can only be formed through diplomatic
ties, thus the need for foreign policy.
(g) International Laws
As member of the international community, Malaysia respects the principles
of the United Nations Charter as well as laws set by other international
organisations. Hence, international relations are necessary to ensure the
sovereignty of the nation is always assured.
(h) Globalisation Factor
In this era of globalisation, a country has to forge ties with foreign countries
for political, economic and social interests. We ourselves are aware that the
conflicts that happen in other countries have a direct effect on Malaysia. In
this case, a proactive and visionary foreign policy is vital in maintaining the
countryÊs interests and sovereignty. Malaysia also needs to stand shoulder-
to-shoulder with other countries to ensure her views are always taken into
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12.1.3 Objectives of the National Foreign Policy
Briefly, the objectives of the foreign policy, among others, are to:
(a) Preserve, defend and develop MalaysiaÊs interests in the international arena;
(b) Preserve and defend the independence, sovereignty and security of
(c) Defend the principles of mutual respect of independence and sovereignty of
territories through a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other
(d) Face political, economic, security and social developments and challenges in
the world stage;
(e) Defend and advance the rights, interests and aspirations of Malaysia in all
(f) Cultivate cordial relations and increase cooperation with other countries.
WHICH MINISTRY IS RESPONSIBLE?12.2
12.2.1 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
National foreign relations are handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This
Ministry manages matters related to political ties, economic affairs, security and
social and cultural promotion. Among the objectives of the Ministry are to:
(a) Manage two-way relations, regional relations and multiple-way relations
with foreign countries and international organisations. These relations
encompass politics, economics and culture;
(b) Promote investment and trade with other countries;
(c) Carry out informative activities to project the image of the country abroad;
(d) Handle support activities, including services, general administration,
finance, consular, security and communication.
The mission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to protect and develop
MalaysiaÊs interests and contribute to a free and just international community
through the practice of proactive diplomacyÊ.
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12.3.1 What is Regional Cooperation?
In facing the ever-increasing competition due to the impact of globalisation,
developing cooperation with other countries is necessary to execute ideas, best
practices and experiences, other than drafting suitable policies for mutual
benefits. In finance and trade, Malaysia continues to develop two-way and
multiple-way cooperation with other countries.
Regional cooperation is mainly focused on the development of Asean. Priorities
are primed towards increasing competitiveness and developing regional financial
sectors. This includes developing Asean as a class asset, enhancing the
liberalisation of financial services, strengthening building capabilities and
increasing the subsidising of facilities. In 2004 and 2005, Asean promoted the
region as the main destination for investment by taking into account closer
regional economic integration.
To strengthen Asean as a relevant organisation, there are several efforts that need
to be taken:
(a) Cultivate Âthe we feelingÊ;
(b) Reduce the gap in development between member states in Asean;
(c) Absorb values on equality in matters like democracy, human rights and
(d) Fortify the Asean institution; and
(e) Increase greater awareness and deeper knowledge of Asean among citizens
in the Asean countries.
With this is mind, Asean has also taken steps to create an Asean Community by
2020. To create such a community, each member state shares the responsibility to
maintain the peace, security and stability of the region. To achieve this aim,
several steps have to be taken:
(i) Resolving any conflict peacefully through negotiations;
(ii) Overcoming cross-border challenges that can negatively affect the
development and well-being of the citizens; and
(iii) Ensuring the region is free of weapons of mass destruction and the threat
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It is hoped that the forming of an Asean Community will create a single market
and local production centre where goods, services, investments, labour and
investment capital can flow freely among Asean countries.
To expand the economies of the Asean countries, several efforts are being
implemented to create a Free Trade Area (FTA) between Asean and neighbouring
countries like the PeopleÊs Republic of China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India,
Australia and New Zealand. The creation of the Free Trade Area will greatly
benefit Asean countries, while increasing supply and demand from outside Asean
at the same time.
In your opinion, what are the noble values that need to be practised by a
country when having relations with other countries, in order to have an
effective foreign policy?
MALAYSIA AND INTERNATIONAL
12.4.1 ASEAN (Association of South East Asian
Asean was formed on 8 August 1967 when several countries, including Malaysia,
signed the declaration of the forming of Asean in Bangkok. Now, Asean is made
up of 10 member countries, including Brunei, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
Through Asean, Malaysia has formed many trade and industrial relations,
economic cooperation, political cooperation, social and cultural cooperation,
cooperation on education and health, social interests and more with other Asean
What is Asean and when was it formed? What are the roles played by
Asean and what are its successes to date? Discuss.
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Successes Achieved by Asean
(a) Concept of ZOPFAN
ZOPFAN, or the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality, is practised by all
(b) South East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Concept
This concept refers to the entire Asean region being free of nuclear weapons
and nuclear weapons testing.
(c) Economic Projects
Cooperation in economics encompasses the urea fertiliser project, the
hepatitis B vaccine project and such. In terms of economic integration, Asean
can be proud of efforts to abolish tariffs on 11 main sectors, due to be
implemented by Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines
and Brunei in 2007; and by Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam in 2012.
(d) Cooperation in Social and Cultural fields
This encompasses aspects of culture and arts, sports and
telecommunications. For example, the hosting of the SEA Games, ASEAN
Film Fest, ASEAN Cultural Fest, news exchange and joint TV/Radio
broadcasting between RTM and TVRI and RTB. In the tourism field, there
was the Visit ASEAN Year 1996.
(e) Cooperation in Education
This aims to share expertise that will be learnt by students from member
states. Asean formed the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education
Organisation (SEAMEO). Implementation duties were allocated among
several Asean countries, which included RESCAM to train Science and
Mathematics teachers in Penang, RELC to train officers in increasing the
command of English in Singapore, INOTEC to produce agriculture
researchers in the Philippines, and TROMPED to conduct public health
research in Thailand. Other countries also cooperate in research on diseases
like dengue, hepatitis and coxsackie B.
(f) Asean Vision 2020
The forming of ASEAN Vision 2020 to create an Asean economic region that
is highly competitive, developed and stable by ensuring the free movement
of goods, services, investments, capital and economic development, as well
as eradicating poverty.
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(g) Asean + 3
Asean + 3 is a cooperation between Asean, China, Japan and Korea. It is
AseanÊs ambitions to use the Asean + 3 as a stepping-stone to create an East
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi outlined MalaysiaÊs three new approaches in
increasing economic cooperation within Asean more effectively, to ensure the
region remains dynamic and continues to attract investors, at the Asean Summit
in Laos recently. The three approaches are:
(i) Continue economic integration on a wider scale;
(ii) Expand the network with trading partners; and
(iii) Promote regional development initiatives.
Since independence, how many organisations is Malaysia a part of? Also
mention examples of international programmes handled in Malaysia.
12.4.2 Malaysia and the OIC (Organisation of Islamic
Did you know that the OIC was established based on suggestions by Malaysia? In
fact, Malaysia was given the honour of providing the first Secretary-General of the
OIC, Tunku Abdul Rahman. The OIC Secretariat is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was
formed in 1971 and comprises 57 Islamic countries from the three biggest regions
Asia, Middle East and Africa where the people constitute one-fifth of the
worldÊs population. The OIC is a specific forum that unites all Islamic countries in
the world for mutual good.
Purpose of Forming OIC
This organisation aims to foster cooperation among all Islamic countries in fields
such as socio-culture, politics, science and technology, exchange of financial
information and such to elevate the Muslim status.
The OIC also functions to oppose sinister elements that oppress Muslims around
the world. The OIC also serves as the reference in overcoming any confusion
about the laws of Islam among Muslims.
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MalaysiaÊs role in the OIC:
(a) Established the Islamic Development Bank;
(b) Criticised Soviet interference in Afghanistan;
(c) Supports the struggle of Palestinians;
(d) Condemned the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina;
(e) Developing African economies and society by building development and
(f) Investing in several OIC member states, for example Petronas in Iran;
(g) Organises the annual Musaqabah al-Quran to strengthen and foster closer
friendships among OIC countries;
(h) The OIC has also developed education among Muslims throughout the
world by the establishment of universities like the Al-Azhar University,
International Islamic University and more;
(i) Malaysia has also played host to many important Summits and Meetings,
among which are the Extraordinary Session of Foreign Ministers of Islamic
Countries on Violence (1-3 April 2002), the Sierra Leone Group Meeting (13-
14 June 2002), follow-up Meeting of Senior Officials on Tourism (5-7
September 2003), the 27th OIC Summit of Foreign Ministers (27 June 2000),
the 10th PIC Summit (16-18 October 2003) and various meetings at
ministerial, senior officialdom and committee levels, under the auspices of
the OIC; and
(j) Malaysia organised the Special Meeting of OIC Foreign Ministers on the
Middle East in April 2004 to discuss the problems in Palestine and Iraq. This
meeting proved MalaysiaÊs resolve in finding a solution to the conflict
plaguing the Middle East. Malaysia was also entrusted to lead the OIC
Minister-level delegation, in accordance with the mandate given by the
Special Meeting, to meet with members of the Quartet (EU, Russia, US and
the Secretary-General of the UN) and urge them to take immediate steps in
solving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
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The Commonwealth is an organisation comprising countries that were former
British colonies. The members are made up of former British colonies, including
Malaysia. Malaysia joined upon achieving independence in 1957. Commonwealth
was aimed to create friendship and unity, and economic, education, defence,
agriculture and legal development among all former British colonies.
MalaysiaÊs Role in the Commonwealth
(a) Put forth challenges in international trade, colonialism and opposition to the
Apartheid issue in South Africa. In the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Bahamas (1985) and Vancouver (1987),
Malaysia called on this world body to play a more aggressive role in
overcoming issues of unfair world trade, political and economic colonialism
as well as the scourge of Apartheid.
(b) Malaysia was chosen as the host for CHOGM in 1989. The issues discussed
were Apartheid, independence of Namibia, drugs, famine and poverty in
Africa, international economy, West Asia conflict, Afghanistan and
Cambodia conflicts and environmental issues. As a result of the decline and
pollution of the environment, the Commonwealth Heads of Government
outlined several plans and actions that covered the:
(i) Creation of an international fund for the preservation of the
(ii) Management of forests and agriculture in developed and developing
(iii) Reduction of marine pollution; and
(iv) Overcoming the problem of the thinning of the ozone layer.
(c) Benefits of cooperation in defence, trade, development of science and
technology, agriculture, education, finance and many more. In defence, for
instance, Malaysia received military aid specifically for 10 years after
(d) Conducting joint military training with several Commonwealth nations.
Malaysia also obtained the support of developed nations in the
Commonwealth. For example, Malaysian goods were granted the
Generalised System of Preference (GSP). Through this system, tariffs on
Malaysian goods are reduced, and this indirectly increases the
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competitiveness of Malaysian goods compared to the goods from other
countries in the market.
(e) The introduction of the Colombo Plan further enhanced MalaysiaÊs stature,
where Malaysia received advice on education, agriculture, health and such.
For example, in education, the Commonwealth nations provided advice on
the establishment of teaching colleges, A-Levels and HSC. Socially, unity
among Commonwealth nations is fostered through sporting activities, like
the Commonwealth Games, which were hosted by Malaysia in 1998.
12.4.4 Group of 15 (G-15)
The G-15 comprises Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia,
Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Venezuela
Objectives of Forming the G-15
The G-15 was formed to cultivate better understanding and cooperation among
developing countries, especially in the fields of investment, trade and technology.
12.4.5 United Nations (UN)
The reasons for the establishment of the UN and its roles are well-known.
Malaysia joined the UN on 17 September 1957 after achieving independence.
Objectives of the UN
The principles of the UN are to assure the sovereignty and rights of all member
states, and ensuring no country interferes in the affairs of another. The UN also
aims to create a world community that is peaceful. To achieve this, cooperation in
many fields is required. The UN plays a role in two matters pertaining to world
(a) UN general Assembly; and
(b) Security Council.
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To implement the agenda of the UN, several secretariats have been formed
through the years, like:
• World Health Organisation (WHO)
• International Labour Organisation (ILO)
• United Nation Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
• International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Malaysia was previously chosen to lead the G-77 countries, who were tasked to
discuss on world development issues. Malaysia was also chosen to lead the
ICDATT, an international agency tasked with fighting the abuse of drugs. Further,
Malaysia was involved in providing opinions and views and reprimanding the
world body, as well as implementing UN policy, such as sending peacekeepers to
the Congo (1961), Somalia (1995), Bosnia (1996) and the Iran-Iraq border (1990).
12.4.6 NAM (Non-Aligned Movement)
NAM, or the Non-Aligned Movement, was established in 1961 in conjunction
with the first NAM Summit in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The Movement was formed
as a reaction to the arms race by the two world super powers of the era, the US
and the Soviet Union.
This organisation held strongly to its neutral stand, favouring neither the Western
Bloc nor the Eastern Bloc. In this matter, NAM principles included respecting the
independence and sovereignty of a nation and not interfering in the internal
affairs of other nations.
(a) MalaysiaÊs Involvement
Malaysia joined NAM in 1969, and has been actively involved in the
organisation. This is because the policies of NAM are in-line with MalaysiaÊs
stand on global issues. Malaysia would like to interact with all countries,
regardless of their political ideologies, to reap benefits.
Malaysia was given the honour of being elected as the Vice Chairman of
NAM during its summit in Belgrade in 1989. In the summit, Malaysia was
appointed to join the G-15 which was an elite group tasked with discussing
issues on political and economic cooperation among NAM members. In
February 2003, Malaysia was chosen as the host for the NAM Summit.
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Malaysia is currently the Chairman of the 13th NAM Summit until 2006,
with 114 member states that comprise two-thirds of the total membership in
(b) MalaysiaÊs Role in NAM
(i) Chairman of NAM. Through this organisation, Malaysia functions to
provide able leadership to represent the member states, the majority of
whom are developing nations, in voicing out issues; and to also take
practical and effective steps towards maintaining world peace by
promoting peace through political platforms, diplomatic approaches,
multilateralism and especially via world bodies like the UN and the
UN Security Council.
(ii) Malaysia also focuses on matter concerning economics and trade,
South-South Cooperation, development and eradication of poverty, as
well as common social and humanities development and issues of
interest to NAM.
(c) Why was Malaysia Chosen as the Chairman of NAM?
(i) MalaysiaÊs capability in providing able leadership to NAM when
many questioned the relevance of NAM in the post-Cold War era.
(ii) MalaysiaÊs ability to raise unity and togetherness among member
states when under pressure from developed nations wielding more
power and influence.
(iii) MalaysiaÊs effectiveness in promoting and strengthening multiple-way
diplomatic mechanisms to counter unilateral efforts preferred by
powers like the US.
(iv) Ability to voice out and promote the interests of developing nations in
aspects like politics economics, trade and socio-culture in the
(v) MalaysiaÊs ability in introducing the ÂNAM E-Secretariat PortalÊ which
acts as a database for all issues related to NAM to improve
communication and coordination, quicken decision-making and bridge
the digital divide and unity between NAM member states. This
initiative was taken as Malaysia realised that ICT plays an important
role in economic development, especially in the context of
globalisation where most NAM members are still lagging behind.
(vi) Malaysia organised the NAM Ministerial-Level Special Meeting on
Palestine on 13 May 2004 in Putrajaya as an immediate reaction to the
violent conflict in the Palestinian territories, followed by the NAM
Minister-Level Meeting on Palestine in Durban, South Africa on 18
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August 2004. In the latter, a consensus was reached on the drafting of a
Statement on Palestine that was later merged into the Final Document.
12.4.7 South-South Cooperation
The South-South Cooperation was established to preserve the economic interests
of developing countries and avoid pressures from developed nations like the US,
Japan and the UK. The developed nations usually applied pressure by controlling
the raw materials market. Thus, raw materials from developing nations face
difficulty in penetrating the market. In this case, the developed nations will buy
the raw materials from the developing nations at a low price, and this will make
the developing nations poorer should this practice keep continuing. This practice
also results in developing nations incurring large debts to developed nation, who
impose strict conditions that burden their poorer counterpart. Due to this,
Malaysia suggested the forming of the South-South Cooperation. Its concept was
first put forward by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1981 in Zimbabwe. Among the
resolutions presented for the forming of the South-South Cooperation:
(a) To improve the economic conditions of developing nations;
(b) To overcome uncertainties in prices of raw materials due to pressure by
(c) To strive to find ways to settle debts of developing nations; and
(d) To present recommendations to avoid pressure by developed nations.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Caucus (APEC) was established in 1989 due to the
increase in non-dependence among the economies of the Asia Pacific nations and
the lack of cooperation among these economies which made up nearly half of the
world trade. Malaysia was the chairman of the APEC Annual Meeting in 1998.
Objectives of the Creation of APEC:
(a) To maintain and control the increase in economic activity in the region and
(b) Increase positive aims by encouraging the fluid movement of goods,
services, capital and technology within the region;
(c) Develop and strengthen multilateral open trade system;
(d) Reduce trade barriers; and
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(e) Standardise goods and services trade through the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT) principle.
The three main strengths of APEC are trade and investment liberalisation, trade
and investment facilities and economic and technical cooperation.
What are your views on the interference of superpowers in this era of
• MalaysiaÊs involvement in the international arena has so far been something to
be proud of.
• What more as Malaysia is increasingly growing in stature in the eyes of the
world? This is a result of the role of the Malaysian government, and political
stability in the country.
• These factors have aided tremendously in Malaysia developing her economy
and politics as well as attracting investors.
• Thus, Malaysia has managed to lift herself to be side-by-side with developed
nations, specifically through international relations.
• What is more important is MalaysiaÊs success in preserving her identity and
maintaining a stand in any given issue.
Asia-Pacific Economic Caucus (APEC)
National Foreign Policy
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
Organisation of Islamic Countries
United Nations (UN)