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Foreign relations of Malaysia
This article concerns the Foreign relations of Malaysia.
Malaysia is an active member of various international organisations, including the Commonwealth of Nations, the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and the Non-Aligned Movement. It has also in recent times been an active proponent of regional co-operation.
Foreign policy 1957-1969
Malaysia has been a member of the Commonwealth since independence in 1957, when it entered into the Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement (AMDA) with the United Kingdom whereby Britain guaranteed the defence of Malaya (and later Malaysia). The presence of British and other Commonwealth troops were crucial to Malaysia's security during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) and the Indonesian Confrontation (1962-1966), which was sparked by Malaya's merger with the British colonies of Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo to form Malaysia in 1963.
The British defence guarantee ended following Britain's decision in 1967 to withdraw its forces east of Suez, and was replaced in 1971 with the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) by which Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore agreed to co-operate in the area of defence, and to "consult" in the event of external aggression or the threat of attack on Malaysia or Singapore. The FPDA continues to operate, and the Five Powers have a permanent Integrated Area Defence System based at RMAF Butterworth, and organise annual naval and air exercises.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman (up to 1970), Malaysia pursued a strongly pro-Commonwealth anti-communist foreign policy. Nonetheless, Malaysia was active in the opposition to apartheid that saw South Africa quit the Commonwealth in 1961, and was a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967 and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 1969, with the Tunku as its first Secretary-General in 1971. Malaysia continues not to recognise the State of Israel.
Foreign policy since 1969
Under Prime Ministers Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, Malaysia shifted its policy towards non-alignment and neutrality. In 1971, ASEAN issued its neutralist and anti-nuclear Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) Declaration. Malaysia joined the Non-Aligned Movement, and in 1974 recognised the People's Republic of China.
This policy shift was continued and strengthened by Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, who pursued a regionalist and pro-South policy with at times strident anti-Western rhetoric. He long sought to establish an East Asian Economic Group as an alternative to APEC, excluding Australia, New Zealand and the Americas, and during his premiership Malaysia signed up to an ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and ASEAN+3, a regional forum with China, Japan and South Korea. He was involved with a spat with Australian prime minister Paul Keating, who called him a "recalcitrant" after he refused to attend the APEC summit in Seattle.
Malaysia views regional cooperation as the cornerstone of its foreign policy. Malaysia was a leading advocate of expanding ASEAN's membership to include Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar, arguing that "constructive engagement" with these countries, especially Burma, will help bring political and economic changes. Malaysia is also a member of G-15 and G-77 economic groupings.
Despite Mahathir's frequently anti-Western and anti-Semitic rhetoric, he worked closely with Western countries, and led a crackdown against Islamic fundamentalists after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Under his successor, Abdullah Badawi, relations with Western countries, particularly Australia, have improved.
UN and many of its specialized agencies, including UNESCO; World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Atomic Energy Agency; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; Association of Southeast Asian Nations; Asian Development Bank; Five-Power Defense Arrangement ; South-South Commission (G-15 ); Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC); The Commonwealth; Non-Aligned Movement; Organization of Islamic Conference; and INTELSAT.
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