Rabu, 08 Agustus 2007

Achievements, future challenges

Jusuf Wanandi, The writer is vice chairman of the board of trustees for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta.

ASEAN was established to prevent the kind of debilitating conflict of the 1960s in Southeast Asia, including Konfrontasi between Indonesia and Malaysia and between Indonesia and Singapore.

It was also a hedge against the uncertainty of the Vietnam War in the mid 1960s.
ASEAN's first decade saw its five members try to get to know each other -- they were so different. It took a decade before the first Summit could be held in Bali in 1976 -- a summit which was held to help face challenges associated with the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

The objective of that summit was to strengthen ASEAN cooperation and to reach out to Vietnam. ASEAN laid down the basic strategy, rules and institution in Bali: ASEAN Concord (strategy), Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (rules) and the Secretariat (institution). Several economic cooperation schemes, such as the ASEAN Industrial Projects and the Preferential Trading Arrangement were trialed but were proven unsuccessful. Only later, after the unilateral opening of economies in a response to the dynamic economic developments in the Asia Pacific, did ASEAN pursue economic cooperation more seriously.

A growth in confidence for these nations, along with said economic cooperations, lead to the formation of an ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 1992.
The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978 provided the chance for ASEAN to develop into a "diplomatic community" par excellence. Because of ASEAN's diplomatic initiative and resilience, it was able to throw the Cambodian question to regional as well as international publics.

The Jakarta Informal Meetings and the Paris Conference (1991), with support of the UN Perm-5, saw a political resolution achieved, with the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops and the holding of general elections in Cambodia under UN supervision. After the Cold War, ASEAN initiated through dialogues a series of external relations based on comprehensive, common and cooperative security principles and arrangements.
This was first undertaken with its partners before being later extended into multilateral meetings manifested via the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1993.
The idea of the regional, multilateral security arrangement is not to replace the existing bilateral alliances.

The U.S.-Japan Alliance is the most important and remains the basic instrument for peace and stability in the region. New security arrangements are supposed to complement existing bilateral alliances which no longer adequately deal with post-Cold War realities. In the mid 1990s two things happened. The 1997 Asian financial crisis and the successful expansion of ASEAN's membership to include all Southeast Asian countries, including Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, following Vietnam's membership.

The latter fulfilled ASEAN's founding fathers' dream of a united Southeast Asia.
However, it also created a two-tier ASEAN. The financial crisis resulted in delayed assistance and support for new members. But ASEAN economies regained their balance and agreed to deepen economic cooperation. In fact, ASEAN agreed in 2003 to establish an ASEAN community that would deepen economic, political security and socio-cultural cooperation and integration (Bali Concord II).

The deepening of integration was critical for ASEAN because it would allow the ASEAN cooperation to become a living reality for their people and for the international community. For strategic reasons, it is expected ASEAN will drive moves toward developing the wider East Asian cooperation to an overall East Asian community.
But this can only be realized if ASEAN is consolidated and deepens its cooperation and integration. East Asian regionalism is perhaps the most important strategic development.

East Asia's peace, stability and economic ability in the future will be dependent upon this regionalism. It has three strategic objectives: to facilitate and accommodate China's peaceful rise; to assist in the normalization of relations between China and Japan; and to support peaceful cooperation between the U.S. (as the only superpower) and China (as a potential superpower) in the future.
The ASEAN Plus Three will be the main instrument for functional and economic cooperation, while the EAS (East Asian Summit) will be a forum for strategic dialogues and cooperation.

With the U.S. as the next possible member, the EAS will become a concert of powers for East Asia -- a kind of G-8 for the region. We can now say peace has been preserved in Southeast Asia for the past 40 years due to ASEAN. Southeast Asia's economy has also been assisted by the example that was set by ASEAN's members influencing one other to open their economies. ASEAN has also enabled countries in the region to deal with new strategic developments in East Asia and the pressures of globalization.

So what are ASEAN's future challenges?
First, the serious implementation of its programs in all fields of cooperation (economic, political-security and socio-cultural) is critically important to its credibility. Second, there is a need for more people and organizations or bodies to participate in ASEAN's cooperation -- this is essential for its survival. Civil societies, politicians, parliaments, entrepreneurs and the media must be involved.
Third, there is a need to establish more rules and institutions. The role of the charter will be critical to move ASEAN because it needs principles, ideas and objectives, rules and institutions as pre-requisites for its future.

Fourth, ASEAN's policy to overcome the divide between all members is critical. This would become a reality if ASEAN was to create a fund of at least a half billion U.S. dollars initiated by its better endowed members. This fund will also help ASEAN attract third parties to participate more fully in their efforts.

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