By Tariq Ismail

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The Foreign Affairs Bureau of Pejuang views the recent condescending statement on 21st October 2021 by Mr. James Heappey, the Minister of the Armed Forces within the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, with concern.

The Rt.Hon. Minister claims that there has been “a lot of overhyping” with regards to AUKUS and it “doesn’t in any way represent a challenge in your part of the world”.

Firstly, in “our” part of the world, diplomatic engagements do not involve opening discussions with a background filled with carrier strike groups, military exercises halfway across the world, or nuclear-powered submarines, much less weapons and machinery of war.

In “our” part of the world, we’ve engaged with China for close to a millenia. In fact, our ties existed before the rise of Western civilisations. This all proves diplomacy need not involve rabid militarisation.

However, the Bureau agrees with the Rt.Hon Minister that AUKUS doesn’t challenge our relationships in East Asia, neither amongst ourselves nor with China.

Malaysia and the ASEAN countries share a common waterway with China. Ergo, our economies and trades are intertwined with China and the rest of East Asia since before the time of Plato.

In fact, the region’s stability vis a vis the threat of a dominant China, is not severely threatened. The East Asia community has means of counter-balancing the China influence, mainly through mutual respect and cooperation which underlie the principles of East Asian diplomacy.

AUKUS is seen as part of wider efforts to reduce Asia to a position of dependency on Western superpowers, and a pawn in their struggle for supremacy over China. The West should position East Asian nations as multilateral partners.

Given the different policy approach on this matter, coupled with increasing militarisation in the seas of East Asia presented by AUKUS, the “hype” is well justified.

Malaysia and this bureau thus maintains that in the spirit of ASEAN’s Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality which encapsulates the general principles of East Asian diplomacy, that the South China Sea must be policed by members of ASEAN itself.

To this end, this bureau urges that Malaysia and ASEAN must draw a common security framework with ASEAN Plus members including the EU, China, Russia and India to preserve the sovereignty of South East Asia specifically and the Indo-Pacific region in general to counter-balance acts of aggressions from any party and thus deescalate the militarisation of the seas in East Asia.

This bureau also holds that Malaysia and ASEAN must proactively engage with the Australian government with regards to the eventual foray into the production of nuclear energy for military purposes, which it eventually must do to enable the use of the submarines.

This bureau contends that the real challenge is for neighbours and multilateral partners to resolve these issues and perceived conflicts through civilised negotiations and without military postulations to force one’s dominance over others.

*Tariq Ismail is International Affairs Bureau Chief and an Executive Council Member of Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang)*