- Foreign relations of Malaysia
This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
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 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Non-Aligned Movement. It has also in recent times been an active proponent of regional co-operation.
- 1 Foreign policy 1957–1969
- 2 Foreign policy since 1969
- 3 International affiliations
- 4 International disputes
- 5 Relations by country
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 References
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.
Foreign policy since 1969
Under Prime Ministers Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, Malaysia shifted its policy towards non-alignment and neutrality. Malaysia's foreign policy is officially based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their ideology or political system, and to further develop relations with other countries in the region. In 1971, ASEAN issued its neutralist and anti-nuclear Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) Declaration. In the same year, Malaysia joined the Non-Aligned Movement. Consistent with this policy Malaysia established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1974.
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.
A strong tenant of Malaysia's policy is national sovereignty and the right of a country to control its domestic affairs. Malaysia views regional cooperation as the cornerstone of its foreign policy. It attaches a high priority to the security and stability of Southeast Asia, and has tried to strengthen relations with other islamic states. 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 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. The current Minister of Foreign Affairs is Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, who assumed office on 18 March 2008.
Malaysia has never recognised the state of Israel and has no diplomatic ties with the state. It has remained a strong supporter of the State of Palestine, and has called for Israel to be taken to the International Criminal Court over the Gaza flotilla raid. Malaysian peacekeeping forces are present in Lebanon and has contributed to many other UN peacekeeping missions. The lack of recognition of Israel became an issue with respect to Malaysia's participation in a United Nations peacekeeping force after the Lebanon-Israel conflict of 2006.
Malaysia is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation). It is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. Kuala Lumpur was the site of the first East Asia Summit in 2005, and Malaysia has chaired ASEAN, the OIC, and the NAM in the past. A former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth.
Malaysia is affiliated with the United Nations and many of its specialized agencies, including UNESCO, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Atomic Energy Agency; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Developing 8 Countries. Asian Development Bank, Five-Power Defense Arrangement, and South Centre. On 31 October 2011 Malaysia became a party to the Antarctic Treaty.
Malaysia has asserted sovereignty over the Spratly Islands together with People's Republic of China, Philippines, Republic of China, Vietnam, and Brunei. Tensions have eased since the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea". However, it is not the legally binding code of conduct sought by some parties. Malaysia was not party to a March 2005 joint accord among the national oil companies of PROC, the Philippines and Vietnam on conducting marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands.
Ligitan, Sipadan and Ambalat
ICJ awarded Ligitan and Sipadan islands, also claimed by Indonesia and Philippines, to Malaysia but left the maritime boundary in the hydrocarbon-rich Celebes Sea in dispute, culminating in hostile confrontations in March 2005 over concessions to the Ambalat oil block.
Singapore was a part of Malaysia for two years (1963-65), but it ultimately was asked by Tunku to secede after increased racial tensions due to the election campaigns in 1964. Today, disputes continue among other things, over the pricing of deliveries of raw untreated water to Singapore, Singapore's land reclamation causing a negative environmental impact in Malaysian waters, a new bridge to replace the Johor-Singapore Causeway which Singapore does not want to pay for, maritime boundaries, the redevelopment of Malayan Railway lands in Singapore and Pulau Batu Putih. Both parties however, agreed to ICJ arbitration on the island dispute. On 24 May 2008, the International Court of Justice ruled that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore with the nearby Middle Rocks going to Malaysia. Regarding railway land in Singapore, see also Malaysia-Singapore Points of Agreement of 1990. On introducing budget flights between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the stumbling block appears to be Malaysia's sympathy towards flag carrier Malaysia Airlines, and preference for the existing near duopoly with Singapore Airlines.
Malaysia's land boundary with Brunei around Limbang is no longer in dispute. On 16 March 2009, Brunei announced its decision to drop a long-standing claim to Sarawak's Limbang district. This was the result of the two countries resolving their various land and sea territorial disputes. This issue was resolved along with several other disputes with the sealing and signing of letters of exchange by Abdullah and the Sultan Sultan Hasannal Bolkiah of Brunei at Istana Nurul Iman. As of 2010 the two countries are working towards resolving disputes over their maritime boundaries.
Relations by country
Country Formal Relations Began Notes Brunei
Brunei has a high commission in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has a high commission in Bandar Seri Begawan. Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations. The states of Sarawak and Sabah in East Malaysia are connected to Brunei via the Pan Borneo Highway. Brunei has denounced its claims on Limbang and recognizes Malaysia's full sovereignty. In 2003, Brunei and Malaysia ceased gas and oil exploration in their disputed offshore and deep water seabeds and negotiations have stalemated prompting consideration of international adjudication.
- Indonesia has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur and consulate generals in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. Malaysia has an embassy in Jakarta and a consulate general in Medan and Pekanbaru.
- Relations between the two nations deterioarated under Indonesian President Sukarno (see Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation), but was back to normal under President Suharto.
- Currently, both nations are in a territorial dispute over the oil rich islands of Ambalat.
- Both nations are founding members of ASEAN and APEC.
- Relations between the two nations has soured by bombing incident in Indonesia led by Noordin Mohammad Top, a Malaysian Islamist militant.
- Both countries share a similar cultural identity. Prior to the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, the region, known as the Malay Archipelago, was never defined as two separate entities, with the Malay language as its Lingua Franca.
- The Philippines has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
- Malaysia has an embassy in Manila.
- Despite religious differences (the former is mostly Muslim, while the latter is predominantly Roman Catholic). Malaysia and the Philippines share a one-of-a-kind relationship rooted on the bases of geography, ethnicity, and political aspirations.
- Both countries are members of the Asian Union.
- The countries are both involved in ongoing disputes over ownership of the Spratly Islands and the Philippines has a claim over the Sabah state in northern Borneo though this is currently not being actively pursued.
Singapore has a high commission in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has a high commission in Singapore. Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations. See also Malaysia-Singapore border, Pedra Branca dispute
Thailand has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Bangkok. Recently, Thai-Malay relations have soured considerably due to the ethnically-Malay Pattani separatists in three southern provinces of Thailand. There have been claims by the Thai government that Malaysia has taken an interest in the cause of their opponents in the war, which his vehemently refuted by the latter.
Central, East, and South Asia
Country Formal Relations Began Notes Bangladesh
- Bangladesh has a high commission in Kuala Lumpur
- Malaysia has a high commission in Dhaka.
- Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
- Malaysia and Bangladesh share common places in many global organizations, much less share cultural connections.
- Both the two countries are members of the OIC, the Asia Cooperation Dialogue.
- India has a high commission in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has a high commission in New Delhi.
- Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Asian Union.
- India and Malaysia are also connected by various cultural and historical ties that date back to antiquity.
- The two countries are on excellently friendly terms with each other seeing as Malaysia is home to great number of Indians who have become naturalised.
- Prime Minister Najib Razak made his official trip to India in January 2010.
- Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh made a three-day official visit in November 2010
Diplomatic relations between Iran and Malaysia are brotherly and cooperative, with Iran having its Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia having its Embassy in Tehran. The two countries are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the D8. The Economic trade between Iran and Malaysia is quite sturdy as well, amounting to US$1.43 billion as of 2008 . In 2010, ASEAN jointly with Iran opened a trade center in Malaysia to promote trade ties between Iran and the regional countries.
Japan has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has an embassy in Tokyo.
Pakistan has its High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has its High Commission in Islamabad. Pakistan has strong brotherly relations with Malaysia. Both are members of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC,) and the Commonwealth of Nations. There is a trade and cultural pact between the two countries, under which the import and export of various goods is done on fairly large scale. The President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan along with other high officials visited Malaysia many times and Malaysian officials also paid a good will visit to Pakistan. Both the countries enjoy close relations and military links of mutual friendship and the cooperation has further strengthened. Since its independence Pakistan has supported the re-unification of Singapore, Pattani and Brunei as integral part of Kuala Lumpur's administration, it also considers the Riau Islands as part of Malaya Federation since its independence in 1960. Pakistan and Malaysia are linked by Air Transport. Pakistan International Airlines and Malaysia Airlines operate many weekly flights between Karachi and Kuala Lumpur. Both Malaysia and Pakistan were a part of the South east Asian version of Nato called Seato also known as a 'mutual defense pact'.
People's Republic of China
China has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Beijing and a consulate-general in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Diplomatic relations were established in 1974. Following the end of the Cold War, diplomatic foreign relations between China and Malaysia immediately and positively changed. That being said, political and cultural connections between the two nations began to strengthen. Both countries are full members of APEC, and there is a sizeable population of Chinese in Malaysia.
South Korea 1960
The two countries established relations in 1960. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was in Kuala Lumpur from 9–10 December 2010 for a two-day visit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Malaysia and South Korea.
Country Formal Relations Began Notes Israel None
Despite initial contact after the independence of Malaya, no diplomatic relations were made. Malaysia consistently rejected relations with Israel as it tried to increase its relations with Arab states and shore up support for its conflict with Indonesia. Malaysia officially declared it did not recognise Israel in 1966. Relations ceased to exist until the 1990s, when limited economic ties were made, although diplomatic ties were explicitly rejected. Malaysia has stated it will open ties with Israel upon a settlement of the issue of Palestine.
Palestine Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Riyadh. Relations, both diplomatic and economic, are quite close between the two Muslim-majority OIC members. Additionally, there is a sizable population of Malaysian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.
Syria has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Damascus. Syria and Malaysia negotiated over a $30 billion worth of contracts over Malaysian companies building infrastructure in Syria.
Turkey United Arab Emirates
Country Formal Relations Began Notes Austria
Malaysia is one of Austria's most important trading partners in Asia. In 2003, Austrian exports to Malaysia, covering a wide range of products such as machinery and components, especially electrical machinery and parts thereof, paper, paperboard, telecommunication equipment and medical and pharmaceutical products, declined by 10.8% to 82.6 million. Malaysian imports to Austria, consisting mainly of one product group, namely electronic and electrical goods, especially semiconductors, reduced by half to 236.4 million. In Kuala Lumpur, the Austrian Trade office offers support to Austrian and Malaysian companies to assist them in forging new partnerships.
- Austrian President Heinz Fischer was in Malaysia on a state visit from November 7–9, 2010, visiting Kuala Lumpur and Malacca Town
Belgium Denmark European Union
- The European Union has a delegation office in Kuala Lumpur.
- France has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur,
- Malaysia has an embassy in Paris.
- Georgia is represented in Malaysia through its embassy in Beijing (China).
- Malaysia is represented in Georgia through its embassy in Kiev (Ukraine).
- Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about relations with Malaysia
Germany has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Berlin.
- The Greek embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, is also accredited to Malaysia. In the opposite way, the Malaysian embassy in Berlin is at the same time accredited to Greece. There is an Honorary Greek Consulate in Kuala Lumpur and there is a Malaysian honorary consulate in Athens.
- Greece exports specialised machinery, non-ferrous metals, tobacco, metal goods, medical products, minerals and fruit, and imports industrial equipment, oil, footwear, paper, rubber, vehicles and telecommunications equipment from Malaysia.
- Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry about relations with Malaysia
- The Holy See has an apostolic delegation, based in Bangkok, to the country, but has no apostolic nunciature to Malaysia.
- Malaysia has an embassy in Rome accredited to the Italian Republic, but has none anywhere accredited to the Holy See.
- In 2002 Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad visited the Vatican to meet Pope John Paul II.
- Apostolic Delegation to Malaysia
- Hungary has an embassy in Malaysia.
- Malaysia has an embassy in Budapest.
- Malaysia Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the relation with Hungary
- Hungary–Malaysia relations on www.kln.gov.my
Formal relations between the two countries first began in 2000, when Malaysia became the first Asian country to establish a liaison office in Kosovo. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008 and Malaysia recognized it on 30 October 2008. Since that time, Malaysia has pledged assistance to Kosovo in several areas.
Netherlands has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in The Hague. The Dutch established relations with the Sultanate of Johor in the early 17th century, and in 1641 they captured the Portuguese colony of Malacca (on the south-western coast of today's Peninsular Malaysia). With a long interruption during the Napoleonic Wars, the Dutch Malacca era lasted until 1824. In the 20th century, the Netherlands established diplomatic relations with Malaysia soon after the Asian state became independent. The erudite Dutch Sinologist and author Robert van Gulik (who was raised in the former Dutch East Indies himself) served as the ambassador of the Netherlands in Kuala Lumpur in the early 1960s. During his diplomatic service there he became closely acquainted with Malaysia's gibbons (he kept a few in his ambassadorial residence) and became sufficiently interested in this ape species to start the study of its role in ancient Chinese culture, the results of which he later published in his last book (Gibbon in China).
Romania Russia Sweden 1958
Diplomatic relations were established in 1958. Sweden has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Stockholm. As of 2009, 90 Swedish companies are present in Malaysia and about 450 Swedish citizens live in Malaysia.
Switzerland has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Bern.
- Malaysia has an embassy in Kiev.
- Since August 2002, Ukraine has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
- March 1998, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko visits Kuala Lumpur.
- December 18 to December 20, 2002, the Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar visits Kiev.
- July 13 to July 16, 2003, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir bin Mohamad pays official visit to Ukraine, visiting Kiev, Odessa and Crimea.
United Kingdom has a high commission in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has a high commission in London. Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Country Formal Relations Began Notes Brazil
Malaysia has an embassy in Brasília while Brazil has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Canada has a high commission in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has a high commission in Ottawa. Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Canada-Malaysia not yet have any trading agreements nor they have any plans on negotiating on FTA.
Cuba United States
Economic ties are robust. The United States is Malaysia's largest trading partner and Malaysia is the tenth-largest trading partner of the U.S. Annual two-way trade amounts to $49 billion. The United States and Malaysia launched negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in June 2006.
Malaysia is represented in Uruguay through its embassy in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and through an honorary consulate in Montevideo. Uruguay had an embassy in Kuala Lumpur but it closed in 2002 due to economic reasons. Both countries are full members of the Group of 77. In November 2007, Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez visited Malaysia and lead a delegation of 50 people from Uruguay. During this visit, a joint communique was issued, saying that the two countries could strengthen their cooperation in the field of peacekeeping training. Uruguay's main exports to Malaysia are beef and leather. In 2001, bilateral trade was worth about US$40 million. This fell to RM96.1 million (approximately US$27million) in 2006.
Uruguayan President Dr Tabaré Vázquez Rosas was in Malaysia for state visit from November 14–18, 2007.
Country Formal Relations Began Notes Australia
- Australia has a high commission in Kuala Lumpur
- Malaysia has a high commission in Canberra and consulate in Perth.
- Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
- Both Australia and Malaysia are members of the Five Power Defence Arrangement and often participate in military exercises together.
New Zealand South Africa 8 November 1993
Relations are good between Malaysia and South Africa, who view each other as close partners. Malaysia is the fourth largest new investor in South Africa, and the countries have exchanged High Commissions.
- List of diplomatic missions in Malaysia
- Malaysian diplomatic missions
- Visa requirements for Malaysian citizens
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