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Nation-building or nation making take several forms but at base, there are two approaches (“Nation Making in Asia: From Ethnic to Civic Nations?”, Dr Muthiah Alagappa, Tun Hussein Onn Chair in International Studies, ISIS Malaysia).

One is on the basis of ethnic or religious community and the other on the basis of citizenship, equality, and commitment to a political creed.

The first may be called ethnic nation making and the second, civic nation making.

The two approaches are not mutually exclusive.

They share some common elements like historic territory and common culture but they also have distinct features.

Citizens’ interests take centre stage in a civic nation.

Group beliefs and interests dominate an ethnic nation.

Political and other mobilisation, state institutions, and non-governmental organisations are developed to sustain and reinforce the national imagination of the core ethnic group and its domination of the state.

The civic nation building approach has the potential to enhance the legitimacy of the nation and state in the eyes of disadvantaged and minority groups without negating them in the eyes of the ethnic core.

It can help realise the full potential of all citizens. Increased legitimacy of nation and state will help ameliorate conflict, making for increased stability, domestically and regionally.