A Living, Breathing, Modern Miracle
After World War II, many regions
launched regional organisations. Many of them failed or barely stayed alive.
There are only two really successful regional organisations – the European
Union (EU) and Asean.
The most successful is the EU.
There are not just zero wars between any two EU member states. There is zero
prospect of war. This is the highest civilisational achievement any
organisation can have.
Asean has not yet achieved zero
prospect of war between its member states. But it is moving solidly in that
Asean’s success in preventing war
is more remarkable because it is a far more diverse region than Europe.
Virtually every major culture and civilisation can be found within the Asean
fabric. By contrast, the EU remains a mono-civilisational Christian club.
Indeed, South-east Asia was described as the Balkans of Asia.
reasons why is ASEAN so successful
ASEAN has fostered a culture of
musyawarah and mufakat (“consultation and consensus” in Indonesian). This ethos
is now hailed by many as the “ASEAN way,”
As well-respected American University
Professor Amitav Acharya puts it, the ASEAN way is characterized by a high
degree of discreteness, informality,pragmatism, expediency, consensus building,
and non-confrontational bargaining styles, which are often contrasted with the
adversarial posturing and legalistic decision-making procedures in Western
By persistently engaging regimes
like Myanmar’s military junta economically and politically, ASEAN prevented a
hardening of its positions due to isolation.
ASEAN now organizes more than
1,000 meetings a year to discuss topics ranging from climate change to cultural
exchange. Consequently, thousands of invisible informal networks have evolved
in the region.
Eg. Myanmar: ASEAN actively
engaged Myanmar and its military junta despite harsh criticism, when Myanmar
was shunned by the Western leaders. Representatives from the junta attended
numerous ASEAN meetings and witnessed the developmental strides made by Member
States through liberalisation, inspiring Myanmar to become more open to
international norms and practices. Months after Myanmar was appointed as the
ASEAN chair, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest.
ASEAN organises the ASEAN
Regional Forum (ARF), a multilateral platform which brings 27 nations
together—including North Korea. . As there is no comparable regional
organization for the northeast Asian countries, these countries’ meetings at ASEAN
summits have been a major contribution to the reigning culture of peace in Asia.
The ASEAN Plus meetings also
facilitated early meetings between leaders of China, Japan and South Korea
(three countries that have traditionally distrusted each other). When
Sino-Japanese relations were tense after Prime Minister Ryutaro hashimoto
visited the Yasukuni Shrine in the late 1990s, an ASEAN summit in 1999 in the
Philippines helped to ease the strained ties by facilitating face-saving
Policy of Non-Intervention
The West has often needled the
ASEAN states to criticize one another when their human rights records slipped.
Yet ASEAN countries ignored this
advice and sedulously (persistently) avoided meddling in one another’s domestic
affairs. This has resulted in a lasting peace.
This low-key approach has been
highly effective in defusing potentially explosive situations, such as the
Thai-Cambodia border dispute, as well as the dispute over Sabah between
Malaysia and the Philippines.
The resolution of these disputes
reflects ASEAN’s facility for conflict management and quiet diplomacy.
The Rise of China to join USA in
the ranks of the world’s top powers is seen as the the world’s biggest shifts
of geopolitical power
China will continue to grow
larger than the United States. In theory, Sino-American relations should hit a
peak of rivalry in the next decade.
Currently, the United States and
China are competing by cultivating their economic and diplomatic ties in the
ASEAN region. This is beneficial for the ASEAN countries, as they will reap the
benefits of American and Chinese trade and investment.
However, if theU.S.-China
relationship sours, ASEAN countries will actively seek to resist the
geopolitical pressures to choose sides.
In the event of enhanced rivalry
between the United States and China, ASEAN faces the danger of devolving into a
house divided against itself, as historically, the ASEAN Member States have had
varying levels of closeness to these superpowers
The resurgence of extremist
groups in the region poses a worrying trend.
The number of Indonesians and
Malaysians enrolling in ISIL has alarmed their respective governments.
Similarly, the emergence of
Buddhist extremist groups in SriLanka could lead to political clones springing
up in Myanmar. ASEAN must ensure that its hard-earned peace is not disrupted by
the emergence of such extremist elements.
The ASEAN countries must work
more closely together to ensure that religious extremism does not rear its ugly
head in the region
The implementation of the ASEAN
Economic Community (AeC), the goal of which is to integrate the region by 2015
by reducing barriers to intra-regional trade and investment, so that the ASEAN
states can be more competitive in the global arena.
Although ASEAN has made good
progress in regional integration in many areas such as the elimination of 99
percent of ASEAN total tariff lines in 2010, it seems unlikely that all the
goals of the AeC will be met by 2015.
The biggest obstacle to economic
integration in the region is the schizophrenic attitude of the ASEAN countries
when it comes to the AEC. Though they are eager to reap the benefits of
integration, they do not want to open up their own markets to the resultant
Non-tariff trade barriers have
yet to be eliminated and the process has been slow and arduous
If ASEAN does not become more
serious about implementing the AeC,its partners could lose trust in its
effectiveness—and trust is ASEAN’s main currency