The Defence White Paper (DWP) contains new ideas and redefines strategies to boost the military’s preparedness in protecting Malaysia’s interests as a secure, sovereign and prosperous nation.
These ideas are based on Malaysia’s geographical centrality between two dynamic regions — the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. Among the prominent ones are related to our country’s status as a maritime nation with continental roots (MNCR), and about Malaysia’s bridging linchpin vision (BLV).
The idea of MNCR is introduced in the DWP based on the uniqueness of Malaysia’s geographical location. It is at the heart of maritime Southeast Asia, flanked by the Straits of Malacca, the busiest waterway in the world, and the South China Sea, the globe’s hottest maritime zone.
This idea is also grounded on the reality that Malaysia is in the Asia-Pacific geopolitical hub, at the Southeast Asian gateway that links the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean regions, and the only land bridge that connects this region with Eurasia.
MNCR is also based on the reality that Malaysia is divided into two zones, with its eastern region forming part of Borneo, the world’s third biggest island, and its western region is a peninsula, the southern-most land mass of Southeast Asia.
This MNCR reality becomes an important determinant to the Malaysian armed forces’ logistic requirement, and the defence capability and military preparedness of the armed force’s land, maritime, air and cyber domains.
The idea also influences the nature of traditional and non-conventional threats in Malaysia’s eastern and western defence theatres; the armed force’s jointness in operations; the integration and coordination of its command and control; the interoperability of its machines; and, the knowledge requirement of its future force.
The MNCR idea leads to the emergence of the BLV, which enables Malaysia to become “an inter-regional hub to bridge the multiple forms of commercial, civilisational and security connectivity”.
Hence, this is how “shared prosperity” meets “shared identity” and “shared security” in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean regions, with Malaysia as its focal bridging actor.
The MNCR and BLV ideas are reflected in Malaysia’s defence vision and strategy, based on the volatile strategic environment at the domestic, regional and international levels.
As such, Malaysia’s strategy is geared towards enhancing the the armed force’s ability to protect the nation’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and economic well-being.
In accordance with this, and keeping in line with the United Nations Charter, Malaysia also adopts a “defensive posture in viewing force as the last resort in asserting our right to defend our national interests, only after all peaceful means have been exhausted”. In other words, Malaysia uses diplomacy as its first line of defence.
To protect and promote Malaysia’s interests in its multi-layered areas of interests, the country’s defence strategy in the DWP is clustered under three pillars of policy approaches: concentric deterrence, comprehensive defence and credible partnerships.The elements of reform in the DWP are motivated by the PH government’s aspiration to instil good governance and enhance integrity, accountability and transparency in the management of defence procurement. This is aimed at eradicating fraud, abuse of power and corruption in the defence and security sector.
Another important feature in the DWP is the government’s aspiration to redefine Malaysia’s approaches in making the defence industry a new catalyst for the economy.
Last but not least, the DWP carries three key messages, two directed at the Malaysian audience, and one for the international community.
First, Malaysians are persuaded not to take the security and stability of this country for granted. This is because “the peace Malaysians have long enjoyed since the end of the communist insurgency and the end of the Cold War in 1989 is a result of the nation’s active defence, diplomacy and development efforts”.
In this context, the DWP highlights the “whole-of-nation” security consciousness and security readiness, “where all in the government and everyone in society share the responsibility for national defence”.
Second, “as security challenges stem from both military and non-military sources in and out of the country”, the DWP advocates “the ‘whole-of-government’ approach as an integral part of an effective security strategy”, where military and non-military agencies work together closely in defending Malaysia.
Third, the DWP informs the international community that “while Malaysia is determined to defend our national interests, this is pursued by the principles of non-alignment, inclusive cooperation, and shared security”.
In conclusion, we should note that this DWP is democratically formulated through “extensive consultation across the civil-military lines with considerable input from academics, think tanks, industry representatives, civil society organisations and all components of government”.
The writer, an analyst of strategic and security issues, is deputy head of the Defence White Paper technical team