Tranquility in ASEAN | Editorial

Tranquility in ASEAN | Editorial

Beijing has once again stressed the importance of tranquility in Southeast Asia, and to keep it free from bloc-based politics. Chinese Premier Li Qiang told the 10-member ASEAN summit in Jakarta that a new ‘Cold war’ is in the making, if bilateral conflicts and prejudice is made to sneak into multilateral forums. His words have come at a time when the US is overtly involved in the region, and from the Straits of Taiwan to navigation and airspace issues in South China Sea, it is becoming quite contentious to draw a line of peaceful interaction. Understanding the need for calm, Li has offered an olive branch as Japan, South Korea, Russia and India are out to create new ripples of rivalry by asserting their geopolitical inclinations across the Indo-Pacific region.

The summit in Indonesia is to be followed by G20 gathering in India next week, and has come close on the heels of the ASEAN-Japan summit where leaders underlined the desire for addressing brinkmanship in the Korean Peninsula with utmost caution. The proposed meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim later this month is being watched with nail-biting restlessness, as the war in Ukraine and Kim’s trigger-happiness with missiles is an enigma to be dealt with. Perhaps, this is why Li has timely warned ASEAN countries, who account for around $3 trillion GDP and with a sizable population of 650 million, to watch their steps and “appropriately handle differences and disputes”.

Read Governor for tapping opportunities in ASEAN

The agenda at hand, it seems, is to somehow pressurise China and subdue its proactive alertness in the naval corridors of ASEAN. This is why Indonesia is stressing for a new ‘code of conduct,’ apparently under Washington’s dictum, for the waterway. But ASEAN would be better advised to go back to its founding Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, wherein the members had agreed to respect sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity. The fulcrum of Southeast Asia has, for quite some time, been tilted towards the West, and is at the root-cause of ills.

Tranquility in ASEAN | Editorial

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2023.


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