MALAYSIA’S PERSPECTIVE ON THE INDO-PACIFIC
Malaysia enjoys a strategic location in the heart of Southeast Asia, with the South China Sea (SCS) and the Malacca Straits within its proximities, separating mainland Peninsular Malaysia in the west from Sabah and Sarawak in the east on the island of Borneo. This presents an interesting arrangement of challenges and security threats for a country with a population of slightly more than 33.5 million people and standing armed forces of 115,000 active personnel and 52,000 reserves.1 The modestly-sized armed forces have experience in peacekeeping duties dating back to the 1960s in Congo, Somalia, Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Lebanon. The young nation thus assumed international responsibility shortly after its independence in 1957. Malaysia promotes its ability to deploy military personnel to the aforementioned conflicts and continues to participate in the United Nations’ international efforts to bring peace and stability. Closer to home, illegal immigrants, illegal undocumented and unregulated (IUU) fishing, piracy in the Malacca Straits, Islamic extremism, and terrorism particularly post-9/11 present a changing landscape of threats and challenges to Malaysia.
This policy paper identifies and highlights relevant actions and strategies enacted by Malaysia through bilateral and multilateral platforms. These include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the group of former British colonies of the Commonwealth, the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the loosely formed Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. The latter was built upon the Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement, which was signed on 12 October 1957 and was subsequently replaced by the FPDA. This defence arrangement was agreed on after Britain’s commitment to cease military activities east of the Suez Canal. Malaysia had to rethink its strategic defence and security policies to compensate for the British protection.