On 2 March 2011, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) convened a joint conference in Singapore to mark the fortieth anniversary of the five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), the military pact linking two Southeast Asian countries, Singapore and Malaysia, with three external powers, the United Kingdom (UK), Australia and New Zealand. The conference, which was attended by regional and international scholars, senior security practitioners, diplomats and journalists, had three aims: to examine the origins of the FPDA and especially the primary motivations of the five powers; to assess the FPDA's contribution to regional security over the past four decades; and to explore possible future roles for the alliance in the context of emerging geopolitical trends and security challenges in the twenty-first century.
While the speakers offered varied assessments of the origins, utility and future of the FPDA, a consensus emerged on the following points. first, the FPDA's flexibility and adaptability to changes in Asia's security environment over the past 40 years remains its core strength. Second, the FPDA has functioned as an important confidence-building measure (CBM) between Singapore and Malaysia and that it continues to facilitate interoperability, professionalization and cooperation among the armed forces of the five countries. Third, that there is neither a compelling strategic rationale, nor a political desire either within or outside the FPDA, to expand its membership beyond the current five members. Fourth, regional perceptions of the FPDA are generally positive because the Arrangements are not seen as directed against a third party.
The FPDA superseded the 1957 Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement (AMDA) in 1971. The origins of the alliance lay in the British Labour government's announcement in 1967 that it intended to withdraw its military presence “East of Suez” due to financial difficulties. In 1970 the newly-elected Conservative government decided to maintain some military engagement in the region by proposing a successor to AMDA which would take the form of a “loose consultative political framework”.