In a period of increasing complexity the nation-state as the basic unit of international relations analysis is increasingly under challenge. The pressures of globalisation and the seemingly related phenomenon of regionalisation ostensibly call into question the very idea of national sovereignty and thus the role of national political actors. Yet the nation-state remains, national political actors- playing above all to a national audience - continuing to be preoccupied with the articulation and defense of so-called national interests and, as an often unstated corollary, a national identity. In this paper the author analyses the experiences of a multicultural and multiethnic Southeast Asian nation-state, Malaysia, in an attempt to explain the linkages between the global, regional and national in the area of foreign relations. In doing so he underlines the fundamental importance of the imperatives of nation-building in defining and, above all, in articulating foreign policy. He concentrates on Malaysian participation in four groupings: ASEAN, the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth. He then turns to the "Look East" policy formulated by Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir, and its organisational expression in his proposal for an East Asian Economic Caucus. In doing so the author draws attention to the imperatives arising from Malaysian society and the double role of a Malaysian Prime Minister: defender of the interests of the politically dominant ethnic group, the Malays, and leader of a multiethnic coalition. He suggests that regionalism represents not merely a compromise between the global and the national but, expressed in identity terms, a means of reinventing the nation-state itself