Copyright © IIUM Press
Malaysia’s foreign policy, the first fifty years: Alignment, neutralism, Islamism. By Johan Saravanamuttu. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, ISEAS, 2010, pp. 388. ISBN: 978-9814279-78-9
Reviewer: Abdul Rashid Moten, Department of Political Science,
Malaysia’s foreign policy is very much under-studied. Nevertheless, there exist several scholarly studies that have received commendable reviews in the past. Chandran Jeshurun’s Malaysia: Fifty years of diplomacy, 1957-2007 (Singapore: Talisman, 2008), subscribes to the
‘great man theory’ and singles out the Prime Minister’s Department as the primary source of Malaysia’s foreign policy during the period of the fourth Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad. Shanti Nair’s Islam and
Malaysian foreign policy (London: Routledge & ISEAS, 1997) is an attempt at analyzing the role of Islam as an important component in the international relations of Malaysia since independence and its use to serve domestic political function especially during the Mahathir era.
Nair examines Malaysia’s role in the Organization of Islamic
Conference, the United Nations and other organizations with reference to its stand on various issues affecting the Muslim world. Karminder
Singh Dhillon’s Malaysian foreign policy in the Mahathir era, 19812003: Dilemmas of development (Singapore: National University of
Singapore, 2009) dispels a single factor analysis and looks at idiosyncratic, domestic and external factors to explain Malaysia’s foreign policy during the Mahathir era.
The various perspectives adopted by scholars found expression, to some extent, in Johan Saravanamuttu’s Malaysia’s foreign policy, the first fifty years: Alignment, neutralism, Islamism. Saravanamuttu’s work goes beyond the typical single factor analysis and fuses