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Study of the content, sources, and development of Malaysian foreign policy, 1957-1975 Saravanamuttu, Jayaratnam

Abstract

Foreign policy studies of Third World countries in general have been either very narrow in their focus, such as those based on the nonalignment theme, or comprehensive without being historically dynamic in their analysis, such as the efforts of the comparative scholars of foreign policy. Other studies have focused primarily on the idiosyncracies of Third World leaders in explaining foreign policy. This study is aimed at correcting these deficiencies through the study of the content, sources and development of Malaysian foreign policy across different issue-areas and over three historical periods spanning the years 1957 - 1975. By means of an a priori dynamic framework of foreign policy analysis, this study indeed found Malaysia to have had definite foreign policy objectives, postures, strategies and actions across the issue-areas of Defence and Security, Development and Trade, and International Co-operation and Diplomacy in the three historical periods of the study. Malaysian foreign policy also exhibited a plurality of sources, the potency of which varied significantly over the three historical periods and across the different issue-areas, demonstrating that the view that foreign policy formulation is elitist may be overstated. In substantive terms Malaysian foreign policy has shifted from a pro-Western, anti-communist posture with its concomitant strategies and actions in the first period to a neutralist posture with its concomitant policy outputs by the third period. Thus, there has been two stable periods of foreign policy, namely 1957 - 1963 and 1970 - 1975, and an unstable, transitional period, 1964 - 1969, marking the development of Malaysian foreign policy from one extreme of the East-West political continuum to somewhere in its mid-point. The change in Malaysian foreign policy, among other things, demonstrates the significance of internal and external feedback effects acting upon extant policies. Finally, the study shows that Malaysian foreign policy is explained not merely by ranking the "relative potency" of the various sources of foreign policy but more importantly through the insightful and logical relation of these various sources to the different policy outputs in a holistic manner.

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