Diplomacy : Malaysia’s First Line of Defense

February 8, 2013


Diplomacy : Malaysia’s First Line of Defense

by Datuk Dr Ananda Kumaraseri | akumaraseri@yahoo.com

INDONESIAN Konfrontasi and the Philippines’ Sabah Claim posed challenges for Malaysia’s foreign policy and conduct of its international relations and diplomacy.

Indonesian Konfrontasi did not constitute an outright war against Malaysia, but it included serious acts of aggression, short of a full-scale war.

TARThe fierce campaign of hostility and the virulent worldwide propaganda against Malaysia unleashed by the Indonesian government came as a rude shock. Combined with the tactical military pressures applied by the Indonesian government, Konfrontasi most certainly turned out to be much more than a traumatic diplomatic challenge for the Malaysian government and bureaucracy.

The Ministry of External Affairs with the Tunku as Minister was not only ill-prepared but also ill-equipped in terms of manpower and resources to counter the sudden onslaught of the far better-oiled Indonesian diplomatic and propaganda machineries. Indeed, the Indonesian offensive, combined with the concurrent threat to its sovereignty stemming from the Philippines’ Sabah Claim, was in actual fact a matter of life and death for the newly formed Malaysia.

However, the twin challenges of Indonesian Konfrontasi and the Sabah Claim bore a silver lining. The baptism by fire Malaysia underwent in conducting international relations and diplomacy served important lessons early in life as a nation state.

The vehement Indonesian and Filipino campaigns against Malaysia that threatened its very existence as a nation spurred a quest by the government for the newly formed Malaysia to be recognised internationally as a sovereign independent nation. In facing the grave external challenge, the country was able to fall back on its rich diplomatic acumen, ingenuity and diplomatic skills to canvass for understanding, sympathy and support from the international community at regional as well as global forums.

The government’s diplomatic response witnessed a host of Malaysian leaders, led by Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, shuttling to world capitals in an earnest effort to seek a peaceful solution to the twin challenges. The leadership provided by the ever affable statesman, the Tunku, coupled with his sagacious policy of prudence and perseverance for a negotiated settlement, proved crucial in this critical juncture of the nation’s history.

Together with the diplomatic astuteness and the negotiation skills possessedghazalie shafie by its handful of competent diplomats led by the then Permanent Secretary, Datuk (now the late Tun) Ghazali Shafie, a further deterioration of relations with Indonesia and the Philippines was averted.

The steady military assistance provided by Britain, Australia and New Zealand under the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement helped to pre-empt an exacerbation of external military pressures and armed threats against Malaysia. Malaysian diplomacy came to roost and bilateral relations with both the hitherto adversarial neighbours were amicably restored in 1966.

The initial setbacks that Malaysia encountered in responding to the twin external challenges had a positive effect on coalescing Malaysia as a nation and specifically on strengthening the country’s diplomatic machinery. The traumatic experience represented, in many ways, a watershed for Malaysia.

It called for a serious self-examination of the country’s foreign policy as well as an urgent rethinking of the conduct of its international relations and the direction of its diplomacy. This resulted in a distinct shift in Malaysia’s foreign policy emphasis.

The young nation’s psyche regarding the real potential of external threats to its territorial integrity and sovereignty deepened appreciably. The government and the bureaucracy became more appreciative of the importance of diplomacy in safeguarding the country’s national interests, including possible external threats to the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

A greater acceptance of diplomacy as the country’s first line of defence against external threats ensued, as well as a sharp increase in resource allocations for the expansion of the diplomatic machinery. This saw changes in the country’s diplomatic apparatus, which featured a dramatic growth of the Ministry of External Affairs (Foreign Affairs Ministry) and its far-flung overseas diplomatic missions.

10 thoughts on “Diplomacy : Malaysia’s First Line of Defense

  1. Din,
    Konfrontasi to Tunku is akin to Falkland war to Thatcher. Tunku has used it to his advantage to sink any oppositions onslaught during the 1964 GE. While Tunku may have done well in the art of diplomacy ( I rather admire Rajaratnam skill instead), he’s pro British. Anyway, these days, diplomacy is very important…..Especially when it comes to getting recognition from countries around. How a successful nation, Rhodesia failed because of diplomacy. Now, Zimbabwe under Mugabe is a basket case of Africa instead of bread basket of Africa
    I have come across the foreign correspondence on Anwar……Enjoy!

  2. This is a damn good lesson for CLF, one of those guys/gals/It????/ that sucked up to ang mohs like SPG/SPB…….

    Nixon?Kissenger diplomatic prowness at the best……Even then Nixon need China’s support………

  3. I hope that folks such as CLF would not be hired as diplomats because seriously his analysis on China & chinese may lead to his annihilation………Total Kaput!

    Napoleon has spoken : Don’t mess with China

    Brings back to Diaoyutai crisis……John Kerry must learn how to handle the situation well. Start by leashing Shinto Abe

  4. Foreign Policy and Diplomacy can create new Legend or make old ones bitter.

    The Brits tries so darn hard diplomacy to extend HK expiry having invested too much in that island. In the late 90s the PRC was far from today’s powerhouse of sorts.

    No matter what diplomacy was made by Brits for change management etc.the word by Deng was simply, short, clear ans sovereign. “Return (it) home” and said very unconditionally.
    Thereafter there was much lesser diplomacy fanfare when Macau returned home. So much for PRC first line of defense against colonial their tenants.
    The Brits and others have been colonizing lands and de-treasuring them.

    Are we practicing the same to Sabah what the Brits did to us?
    What is Sabah’s first line of defense now that its sovereignty is out of their hands onto fake Malaysians?

  5. With all those New Blue ICs given in Sabah, to you know who, the stage has now been set to renew the claim by the Philippines. Thank You TDM

  6. Rightways,
    Pinoys can only ask help from the USA. Anyway, Japan not only mess up with China. It messes up with South Korea. South Koreans are even more gung ho than China……Strange, CLF is silent about it.
    Oh yeah, Mahathir ask Ambiga’s citizenship to be stripped. Perhaps, Mahathir should be stripped & tried for crime against humanity……Start with Memali Incident, Sabah Silent Riot, ARE incident & more

  7. Who says water BB gun can be used in disputed island conflict. Taiwan aka ROC shooting water cannon at Japanese vessels even rallied chinese from both sides of the straits

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