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Asean code key to peace
Publication Date : 19-02-2014
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) - since its inception on Aug 8, 1967, comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and then to its broader present day set-up including Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam - has managed to survive and thrive against the odds posed by its multicultural, multireligious and multilingual components mainly because it operated on a code of conduct based on mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
It is now looking at the emergence of an Asean community with 2015 being that target date set for its realisation. However, in view of many existing obstacles to this, including immigration and visa restrictions that are not likely to be rescinded soon, this is unlikely to materialise by that date. Nevertheless, the grouping’s leaders have been taking that date as a milestone to a work in progress to be realised when it will.
It is this unforced approach that has assured lack of animosity which has been the secret to its durability. Moreover, regular meetings among its leaders invariably end with their posing for group photographs with interlocking arms signifying unity in diversity.
This has also been so in the extended Asean-plus tie-ups with the major regional and international powers including China, Japan, India, the United States and Russia.
This has been called the Asean Way. Although this has been criticised for not promoting political and economic union, it has been recognised that it has fostered regional stability, which is an underlying reason for its formation.
Now in face of multiple claimants to various islands in the South China Sea including China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, it would be desirable if the parties agree to a legally binding code of conduct to settle the dispute peacefully.