For many years under the administration of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia had appeared to be an uncompromisingly nationalistic, independent and neutralist country. Sometimes, the image also bordered on being dangerously 'anti-Western' and 'anti-American'.
However, a more rational or dispassionate look at the reality in Malaysia suggests that its defence has always been closely tied to the Anglo-American West: from 1957 to 1971, Malaya/Malaysia maintained its defence relations with Britain, Australia and New Zealand through the Anglo-Malayan/Malaysian Defence Agreement (AMDA) which was invoked in 1963-1965 to defend the then newly formed Malaysia against the Indonesian Confrontation, especially in Sarawak.
After AMDA lapsed in 1971, a Five-Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) was instituted to preserve the traditional and close defence relations between Malaysia, Singapore, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. FPDA is still valid and operative.
Besides, since 1984, Malaysia is also said to have entered into "a strategic deal" with the United States to cement defence and military-to-military ties.
What accounts for the discrepancy between the appearance and reality in Malaysia's foreign and defence policies under the Mahathir administration that spanned for more than two decades?