Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Is ASEAN about to break up?

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Kishore Mahbubani, from the National University of Singapore, is speaking on "Is ASEAN about to break up?". Professor Mahbubani attributed the recent peace in South-east Asia to the influence of  the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He suggested that such forums allow nations to communicate in a face-saving way. Also he suggested that Australia greatly benefited by not having to deal with refugees who would have been displaced by conflict. However, judging from other presentations at ANU, this period of peace may be coming to an end, with an arms race now taking place in the region and the potential for armed conflict in the South China Sea.

Professor Mahbubani predicted Australia will have a less comfortable time being a western country, with the rise of China, but will be better off due to ASEAN. He also suggested there would be rising geopolitical competition between the USA and China. He commented "This has surfaced first over the South China Sea" (perhaps this was a pun, as China built artificial islands, literally "surfacing").

Professor Mahbubani described last week's ASEAN-China meeting as "disastrous". Also he described a recent incident between Indonesian forces and Chinese fishing boats as "puzzling". However, I suggest that these are simply manifestations of an international dispute. The nations involved will test each other's resolve, both diplomatically and

Professor Mahbubani suggested that many regional leaders are domestically focused. As a result they are neglecting international matters. Clearly this does not apply to all, particularly Singapore, which is regionally focused (and also upgrading its armed forces).

Professor Mahbubani said there was no surprise in Cambodia moving closer to China, while Vietnam moves closer to the USA, but ASEAN could survive this.

ps: I have suggested Australia could engage with the region throughon-line courses, in an "On-line Colombo Plan".

No comments: