The Defence of Malaysia and Singapore: The Transformation of a Security System, 1957–1971

CHIN KIN WAH is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS).

Cambridge University Press (Digitally Printed Version, 2019)
219 pages including Bibliography and Index


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The Defence of Malaysia and Singapore: The Transformation of a Security System 1957–1971 provides a study of the defence of the region from the perspective of evolving intra-alliance relations within a unique defence system which embraced an anchor power, two associates and two recipients of alliance security. This book was first published in 1983: for fourteen years since Malaya’s independence in 1957, the external defence of the Malayan (later Malaysian)-Singapore region was provided for within the legal framework of the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement. The external powers involved were Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

This book examines the hitherto under-explored subject of Commonwealth defence relations with Malaysia and Singapore. It is a case study of intra-alliance politics spanning that period when the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement (AMDA) constituted the formal context for the provision of external security. This unique military alliance embracing an anchor power (Britain), two associates (Australia and New Zealand), and two recipients of alliance security (Malaysia and Singapore) was built on a British guarantee to defend the Malaysia—Singapore region.

The process by which that defence guarantee was transformed into a loose five-power arrangement that limited the liability of the external powers took nearly fourteen years to run its course. The author has not attempted any ‘grand theorising’ in this book. It is hoped however that some understanding of the process of transformation of an alliance system from birth, through consolidation, extension and decline, to demise will be conveyed. The purpose of this study is to follow the thread of policies of the five AMDA allies to explain the unfolding interaction of national interests and consequential diplomatic manoeuvrings.

While resisting the temptation to digress from the central enquiry into the life cycle of a little-known alliance, the author has tried to avoid an extended discussion of the changes in the wider regional environment, such as the vicissitudes of the Vietnam war or the redefinition of policies of the other major powers towards the region. Significant as these events were in the international relations of Southeast Asia, they did not exercise a dominant influence on the major turning points in the transformation of AMDA. Although reference is made to the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement throughout The Defence of Malaysia and Singapore, the reader should note that for the period prior to the formation of Malaysia, the acronym AMDA refers to the Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement.

List of abbreviations
Note on currency units

1. Introduction

2. Pre-treaty defence relations

3. Decolonisation and the institution of the defence agreement

4. The extension of AMDA

5. The external testing of AMDA

6. Towards a closing of ranks

7. The fractured axis

8. Britain weighs anchor

9. From AMDA to the five-power defence system

10. Conclusions

Postscript on five-power arrangements

Weight 0.318 kg
Dimensions 21.8 × 13.8 × 1.3 cm




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