Not all countries that have become independent survived with peace and prosperity on the world stage.
The history of various countries shows a variety of experiences. Some are independent with their size reduced or divided into more than one country. Some were at enmity with their neighbours to a point where border wars break out. Some were attacked by outside forces. Some whose government was overthrown by outside influence. Some have suffered civil wars, genocides, ethnic cleansing, coups, and so on – which often involve outside influences.
Some countries achieved independence in a situation where there was a lack of indigenous leaders who were able to manage the nation’s independence in the best possible way.
This is because the colonialists deliberately left the people of the country uneducated. Because, when colonizing, the colonizer did not want the people to be clever and rise against them.
The colonizers also wanted that, even if they had to see the country as independent, but with a lack of capable leadership, then, it was hoped that the former colony would continue to depend on it.
There are independent nations that are part of organizations whose membership consists of countries of certain former colonies, for example, the Commonwealth and the Francophonie.
During the Cold War, many newly independent countries had to side with either the Western or Eastern blocs.
For Malaysia, since independence, the foreign policy objectives were clear, namely to safeguard its political, security, economic interests and its identity.
Although Malaysia is a member of the Commonwealth, we are able to avoid the numerous big problems faced by many countries which achieved independence at the same period as our nation, and even become more developed than them.
We address border issues with neighbouring countries diplomatically.
To ensure regional security, we play an instrumental role in the establishment, and subsequently, the progress of ASEAN.
We remain neutral and are a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and stand as an independent Muslim majority country by being a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
As members of the United Nations (UN), we are free to speak out. We are vocal on issues of Palestine, Afghanistan, Myanmar and so on. Of the conflict in Ukraine, we have our stand.
We are also free to join and play a role in various international bodies on security, trade, education, health, environment, human rights and so on.
On international platforms, we have a principled stance, per international law, independent and neutral, including when dealing with major powers.
At the same time, we are championing the reform of the UN and the international architecture of finance, trade, economy, security, and others, in order to be more inclusive, free and fair.
In essence, when facing various international challenges, we do our utmost as an independent nation.
(Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament for Indera Mahkota.)