Manis is the Bahasa word for ‘sweet’. It also could symbolise a visionary grouping of Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Singapore.
Existing forums struggle reaching consensus and see only glacial progress on growing non-traditional security challenges. A smaller grouping like MANIS would see problem solving more achievable for pressing issues that require regional cooperation.
But a range of challenges in fostering regional cooperation point to the need for modest expectations. The way ahead involves respectful, patient, collegial and yet determined engagement to sweeten regional ties, drawing in a range of government agencies and non-government institutions.