Spreading its wings

The 20th summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations last week has not only sought to consolidate ASEAN's gains, but also build a road map for its future. After stabilising itself as a regional cooperation forum for Southeast Asia, ASEAN started building bridges with its political and, more so, economic partners. The ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN+3, and the East Asia Summit are classic vehicles used by the association to build partnership with major powers across the world. From the U.S. and EU, to China, Japan, India, and South Korea, ASEAN has engaged in a useful and continuing dialogue. The objective was invariably to prevent conflict or friction and ensure free trade. At its just-concluded Phnom Penh summit, the association has firmed up plans for holding a global dialogue with institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and UNCTAD. This will be held in November this year in Cambodia, along with other annual meetings. Again, ASEAN is trying to look into the future and engage development and finance institutions with a global reach to work with them in bringing about inclusive growth, an important objective given the fact that half of Southeast Asia continues to reel under poverty and under-development.

ASEAN legitimately took some credit for the successful conduct of by-elections in Myanmar that enabled Nobel laureate Syu Kyi and her party to contest and earn their rightful place in its Parliament, which remains packed with military nominees. Not surprisingly, the summit appealed to the U.N. and the West to lift the sanctions imposed on Myanmar over the years. Noting with concern continuing tensions in the Korean peninsula and the South China Sea, ASEAN called for the early resumption of the Six Party talks on Korea and for all countries with an interest in the South China Sea to continue to engage in dialogue and help defuse tensions. On India, regional leaders looked forward to the commemorative summit to celebrate 20 years of ASEAN-India dialogue relations to be held in New Delhi in December, and also to the recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group on future directions for this partnership. Despite its internal problems and the different systems of governance in vogue in its member-States, ASEAN has emerged as a model for other regional cooperation bodies to follow. It has also positioned itself at the centre of ongoing efforts to build pan-Asian economic and, eventually, even security structures. This is an arrangement all big powers with a stake in Asia — China, the U.S. and India — are comfortable with, provided the architecture which emerges is open and inclusive.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 2:51:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/spreading-its-wings/article3297582.ece

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