The year 2017 sees Malaysia reinforcing its diplomatic relations with foreign countries through various approaches as well as a series of visits and courtesy calls of leaders. Keyword: active voice.
Malaysia’s international relations calendar this year began as early as February with the visit of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud to strengthen bilateral ties and elevate the two countries to a new era of relationship.
The visit, which came at the invitation of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V, also brought good news when King Salman agreed to increase Malaysia’s haj quota to 30,200 people from 27,900 previously.
The visit also sparked the establishment of the King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP) in Malaysia’s administrative capital, Putrajaya, to counter the influence of extremism and terrorist activities, as well as promote universal peace.
In May, the five-day visit of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to China to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was a dual success, as it also increased investment opportunities in infrastructure development in this country.
While in Beijing, Najib also had separate bilateral meetings with China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
Also in May, Najib joined Arab and Islamic leaders as well as United States (US) President Donald Trump for the Arab-Islamic-US Summit in Riyadh, which listed security and combating terrorism as its agenda.
Najib regarded the working visit as successful as it had put Malaysia at the forefront of combating terrorism and was among the 10 nations, including Saudi Arabia and US, given the role in the development and operation of the Riyadh-based Global Centre for Combating Extremist Ideology.
In September,the Najib-Trump meeting at the White House was significant as it marked the 60th anniversary of bilateral ties between the two countries.
Although the meeting sparked all kinds of speculation and accusations especially from the opposition, Najib described it as a ‘positive and friendly’ meeting.
Earlier in April, Najib’s six-day official visit to India at the invitation of his counterpart Narendra Modi, had re-synergised the 60-year diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The visit which took him to Chennai, New Delhi and Jaipur, evidently showed the commitment of both countries to strengthen and move their cooperation to a higher level.
The investments totalling US$36 billion (RM158.4 billion), including US$32 billion in Malaysia through 31 memoranda of understanding signed during his visit, reflected the confidence of Modi’s government and prominent Indian companies in Malaysia’s investment and economic conduciveness.
Also important in the country’s diplomatic diary this year was the prime minister being awarded the King Hamad (Al Nahda) First Medal by Bahrain ruler, King Hamad Isa Al Khalifa.
The prime minister had the distinction of being the first foreign leader to be conferred Bahrain’s new highest award created two years ago.
In addition, 2017 also saw the country receiving some world-renowned figures such as the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Their visit, which commemorated the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations between Malaysia and the United Kingdom, was part of the royal couple’s 11-day tour to Singapore, Malaysia and India from Oct 30 to Nov 9, aimed at strengthening ties between Britain and Asia.
Malaysia also received visits from world leaders such as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al Thani; King of Bahrain, King Hamad Isa Al Khalifa and New Zealand’s Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy which strengthened relations between Malaysia and these countries.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s visit to the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in October gave a clear message to the world that Malaysia was serious about the issue and desired a long-term solution to the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar. – Bernama