Why Malaysia Needs a Defence White Paper

Cdr Chandramohan a/l Balakrishnan RMN (KD Pelandok)


A Defence White Paper is a document that contains an analysis of possible national threats as well as a coherent defence action plan. As such, a country defines as precisely as possible through it the measures that it may take to ensure its defence and security. Additionally, a ‘Defence White Paper’ offers guidelines to the armed forces’ organisation, administration and war-fighting capabilities. These include new weapons, platforms, systems, enabling equipment, facilities, workforce, information and communications technology, science and technology and deployment of military units.

Malaysia desires to live in peace with all its neighbours and the world at large, to cooperate with all those willing to cooperate with us and to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states within their present borders. We shall spare no effort in promoting mutual peace and in understanding the international sensitiveness within our region, On the other hand, we must be equally determined to use all means at our disposal, including military force to uphold our own sovereignty and territorial integrity. This desire to ensure the security of our people is always a top priority. A refined White Paper will therefore recognise that in our dealings with other states, armed forces are the option of last recourse. Our military posture will therefore remain defensive. However, should our nation be subjected to aggression, our forces should be able to deal with the aggressor decisively; and this will and capacity must be made known beforehand. In the past, our forces and our overall capacity for national defence have been assigned only between 1.6 to 1.4% of the national budget and were fairly limited in scope. At the same time, our recent xperience operating in 26 United Nations peacekeeping missions globally have demonstrated the mettle and quality of our forces. With the number of increasing conflicts in the region lately such as the separatist insurgency in south Thailand and Mindanao Philippines, Sulu incursions and many more sporadic conflicts, Malaysia has had to review its ability to defend the nation against the more threatening aspects of these conflicts. The overlapping claims over the South China Sea and the numerous disagreements over land borders with our neighbours have created some anxiety in Putrajaya. In response to these threats, our defence forces will need to expand both in capacity and capability and this is where we need a Defence White Paper to legitimate our demand and our pursuit of lasting peace.

Area of Common Interest

In the process of drafting a defence white paper, continuous guidance should be sought to direct our holistic defence posture, and this should cover the the following points:

  1. Identifying Malaysia’s security interests and the potential threats the country is facing.
  2. Spelling out Malaysia’s intentions in dealing with threats to national security.
  3. Spelling out the role of the defence forces in dealing with security challenges, and offering guidelines on their organization, administration and employment in discharging their roles.
  4. Maintaining the ability to transform and equip our citizens with war-fighting morale and the conviction that nothing comes above the nation’s interest.
  5. Gaining the ability to resolve issues diplomatically through bilateral negotiations and consultations with neighbours.
  6. Having plans that are affordable, achievable and cost-assured.


This document will cascade down to become the basis for military strategy, which will include the development plan for the Malaysian Armed Forces. Granted the multifarious responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the Malaysian Armed Forces, it is relevant that the development of the forces be continuously monitored and reviewed to ensure progressive improvements and relevancy in an increasingly ambiguous world.

On the other hand, those charged with the responsibility of defending our nation have the onerous duty of ensuring that the provisions of this document are interpreted and implemented in the spirit of true patriotism. In turn, the nation should proudly know and acknowledge that its security is in capable hands and that its highest ideals will be upheld at all times.



It goes without saying that prevailing conditions and relationships within our region are bound to change with time. In this regard, we must therefore be pragmatic in our perspective and be responsive in our thinking such that our national policies, including the Defence White Paper are periodically reviewed, in line with emerging strategic circumstances. These requirements are necessary for the discharging of the armed forces’ rightful role in pursuance of national interests. The Defence White Paper is meant to help political and military leaders understand issues, resolving problems, or making wise decisions through due process.


  1. Keynote address by Malaysian Chief of Defence Force. (4 Jan 2019)
  2. Malaysia Ministry of Defence. (n.d.). Malaysia’s national defence policy, Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.mod.gov.my/images/ndp.pdf
  3. Defence Review. (n.d.). The New Zealand Ministry of Defence. Retrieved March 10, 2013, from http://www.defence.govt.nz/defence-review.html
  4. Defence Minister lecture on National Security and way forward (MAFSC 2017)
  5. S. Ananthan & S. Inderjit/ Zulfaqar Int. J. Polit. Def. Secur. 1(2014) 1-12 3 Figure 1: MAF’s Evolutionary Eras of Force Development (MAF HQ – DPD),

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