The Malaysian government, in particular the Foreign Ministry should be congratulated for the new Foreign Policy Framework. The Prime Minister, in launching the new policy framework of the new Malaysia, captures the essence of the foreign policy direction of the new administration which focused on change in continuity. Malaysia continues to pursue an independent, principled and pragmatic foreign policy founded on the values of peace, justice and equality.
This new policy framework should enable Malaysia to be a middle smart power. We need to aspire to be a middle power with Malaysia assuming the chairmanship of APEC in a few months time and hosting the 2020 APEC Summit in November 2020.
More importantly Wisma Putra should engage more with civil society, think tanks, universities and youth groups so that the common man and women in the street can better understand our foreign policy. Our foreign policy must be relevant to the people. More public engagement is needed to have more Malaysians better understand and support our foreign policy. With more public support Malaysia should punch above our weight in international relations and in multilateral forums like the United Nations. The Prime Minister’s attendance at the coming UN General Assembly in New York and the UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit next week will enable Tun Dr Mahathir and the Malaysian delegation to shine.
I would like to suggest that our foreign policy framework should also emphasize the 3Es – Economic Diplomacy, Ethical Diplomacy, and Ecological diplomacy. With the haze and greater focus on sustainability the importance of ecological diplomacy.
Malaysia’s foreign policy should also continue to place priorities on the 3 As- Asean, APEC and Arab countries (the MENA a countries of Middle East and Northern Africa ). These are the main theaters for international contestation and we need to speak up clearly and loudly in these arenas. For Asean we need to reemphasize ZOPFAN – the zone of peace, freedom and neutrality and ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as well as work with our Asean brothers to arrive at a Code Of conduct with China for the South China Sea. For APEC we need to prepare well for our incoming Chairmanship. Perhaps APEC need to re-look ECOTECH ( Economic and Technological Cooperation ). Whilst trade liberalization and investment flows are important for APEC other issues like the SDGs, people connectivity, digital economy, and education and training are equally important for APEC.
Finally our foreign policy must continue to uphold multilateralism and a rules based international order but we must never fight shy to speak up for our core national interest.
A version of article was published in The Star on 25th September 2019.