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Yudhoyono: Asia must work towards 'win-win' relationships

Publication Date : 02-06-2012


Regionalism is tricky business and not something that is easy to achieve. Still, Asia would need to work towards "win-win" relationships in order to forge peace and stability in the region.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in his keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, revisited a topic raised in past forums - the importance of a strong regional architecture - and urged superpowers such as the United States and China to evolve a positive and cooperative relationship.

"If a new pattern of polarisation and rivalry among the major powers emerges, that will be a step backward and will lead regional affairs in the wrong direction," he told an audience of delegates from 27 countries, including ministers, military brass and senior diplomats from the US and China, as well as Britain, France, Australia and Asean states.

"Both the US and China have an obligation not just to themselves, but to the rest of the region to develop peaceful cooperation," he said at the 11th Shangri-La Dialogue, held in Singapore.

Emerging powers should also be allowed to grow into these regional architectures, he said, instead of being treated with suspicion which could spark tension and new conflicts.

"Asia is certainly big enough for all powers - established and emerging - and there is always room for new stakeholders, as long as they invest in common peace and progress."

Recalling a time when Southeast Asia was torn apart by other powers competing for ideology, access and influence, Yudhoyono said these powers now compete for more trade and investment instead. "It's a good thing, we like it, and we welcome it, because the more they compete on these sectors, the more everybody will benefit."

The Indonesian leader spent a large part of his 30-minute speech on the need for "win-win" relationships so that all parties stay committed to the cause. He gave examples in Asean where this has benefited everyone. In the Mekong River, which affects the livelihood of 70 million people across several countries, joint cooperation schemes helped prevent the need for an international conflict over sensitive water resources. And in Indonesia, permanent peace in Aceh has been achieved after three decades of rebellion.

"A 'win-win' approach is not easy - it requires leadership, creativity and courage, especially on occasions when you need to break away from the convention of the past," he said. "But the rewards of a 'win-win' strategic mindset are always substantially better - and more durable - than a 'win-lose' one."

Today, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta will speak at the first plenary session on his country's "rebalancing" towards the Asia-Pacific, a move which China has viewed with suspicion.


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