IN anticipation of sovereign independence from British colonial rule, Tun Abdul Razak was entrusted by the country's first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to look into the formation of a Foreign Service.
In early 1957, he saw to the despatch of the first batch of Foreign Service officers to the United Kingdom for training. Subsequently, batches of newly-recruited Foreign Service officers were sent for training to a few selected Commonwealth countries as well.
These essentially induction-based training programmes were to familiarise our pioneering diplomats with the world of international relations and diplomacy. The foreign induction training programmes included a period of attachment in an overseas diplomatic mission of the respective sponsoring country.
This was to provide our novice diplomats hands-on working experience in conducting professional diplomacy at a diplomatic outpost. As the country progressed, it became obvious that such ad hoc foreign sponsored diplomatic training programmes were inadequate for a variety of reasons.
Former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak’s desire to inject a new sense of purpose and direction in statecraft may be viewed from two broad perspectives. They are, firstly, his deep and abiding concern over national and regional security matters, and secondly, his world view.
When Razak assumed leadership of the country in 1970, his drive to ensure a responsive and efficient bureaucracy increasingly turned its attention to the professional needs of the public service in conducting Malaysia's international relations and diplomacy.
In a sense, this urge came naturally to him given his penchant to fashion a modern and efficient administration.
The professional needs of the bureaucracy in facing the fast expanding challenges and opportunities in conducting the country's foreign affairs and diplomacy, thus, came under close scrutiny of the Tun.
He strove to ensure the grooming of a new breed of public officers capable of handling the country's external relations in ways that would ensure the maximisation of Malaysia's national interests, security and stability.
Razak's desire to inject a new sense of purpose and direction in statecraft may be viewed from two broad perspectives.
They are, firstly, his deep and abiding concern over national and regional security matters, and secondly, his world view. Both these overriding concerns merit elaboration.
The Tun's predilection for socio-economic development and progress was directly linked to national and regional stability and security.
A recurrent feature in his thinking and approach to this challenge was his firm believe that they are inextricably intertwined with socio-economic development and progress and vice versa.
From the very outset of his political career, the Tun had stressed that, "The greatest safeguard of Malaysia's sovereignty is not only defence, but even more so, development."
He rationalised that there would be no lasting stability and peace in the country without socio-economic development; just as there would be no progress without durable stability and peace. For newly independent, multi-ethnic and multi-religious Malaysia, socio-economic development, therefore, had to be closely linked with national stability and security.
Hence, as a matter of deliberate policy, socio-economic development and progress were enmeshed with national security and stability considerations in the country's successive five-year plans.
The country had experienced two very real threats to its stability and security. In fact, its very existence as a nation state was in the balance early in its life.
In terms of chronology, the first was the continuous attempts by communist insurgents, since 1948, to overthrow the legitimate government through violent means.
This threat, which is euphemistically referred to as the Emergency which lasted for 12 long years, was eventually put down through a multi-pronged political, socio-economic and tactical strategies, along with critical military assistance extended particularly by Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
The other was the unexpected Indonesian Konfrontasi aimed at "crushing newly-formed Malaysia", which was finally resolved through vigorous bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts.
Another threat that become heightened and which impacted forcefully on the Tun's security consciousness was the fierce protracted wars that raged in neighbouring Indo-China.
The tragic experience among Southeast Asian states of encountering devastating conflicts and prolonged wars reinforced his determination to imbue a greater awareness and appreciation in the public service of the co-relationship between socio-economic development and national security, stability and durable peace.
The Tun envisioned that knowledge and work skills among public officers in formulating and managing public policies, programmes and projects relating to these concerns had to be upgraded commensurate with the seriousness of the threats they posed.
As an integral of this overarching objective, he insisted that the security implications in national policies and measures are to be inculcated into the thought processes of the public service as a whole.
He envisaged that the most effective way to actualise this goal was through professional training at all levels of the administration.
This thinking largely explains the Tun's rather unusual institutional arrangement to amalgamate strategic studies training along with that geared for diplomatic and foreign affairs management under the Centre for International Relations and Strategic Studies that he set up in INTAN in 1978.
The impact of the Tun's world view on professional training in the public service is best discussed separately in the next article.
Datuk Dr. Ananda Kumaraseri NST Opinion Columnist 02 May 2014