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Avoiding strategic miscalculations

By Ioan Voicu - posted Friday, 16 December 2011


The readers of the Bangkok Post received on December 4 this year an intellectual "gift" from Malcolm Fraser, a former prime minister of Australia, who published in this Thai daily an article entitled "Equal playing field."

It contains a lucid and realistic analysis of major current events in the Asia-Pacific, a region in which many strategic miscalculations have been committed in previous and current centuries. Therefore, time is ripe to use the vast reservoir of diplomatic skills to radically improve the substance of multilateral cooperation in this area.

From this perspective, the vibrant article "Equal playing field," deserves utmost attention. Indeed, Malcolm Fraser's final conclusion has great significance: "Asia today presents a completely new and unique set of circumstances. The dilemmas arising from these circumstances demand new solutions, not obsolete Cold War-era concepts." This suggestive conclusion fully corresponds to the current geopolitical environment, which requires fresh answers to fundamental questions of vital interest for all countries of the Asia-Pacific area.

Malcolm Fraser's article is in harmony with his general vision expressed earlier about establishing a better world by involving two different but complementary processes. The first would be the development of a law-based system of international relations, step by step, falteringly, but nevertheless moving steadily forward. The second process would be illustrated by adequate diplomacy and communication, without which, neither a law-based system nor peace can be maintained.

In this respect, there is a recent promising answer offered by the heads of state/governments of the participating countries of the sixth East Asia Summit (EAS) on November 19,2011 in Bali, Indonesia. The EAS is a diplomatic forum held annually by leaders of 18 countries.

The USA and the Russian Federation took part for the first time in the sixth EAS, which in its enlarged composition. is expected to further strengthen EAS efforts to advance its common endeavours. The enlargement came at the right time, because, as pointed out during the Summit itself, the East Asia region continues to face challenges that are multifaceted, multidimensional and interlinked. And consequently, they require collective resolve to address them. Thus, multilateral diplomacy is called upon to demonstrate its capacity to find creative solutions to the numerous problems generated by these complex challenges

In an important diplomatic document entitled ''Declaration of the 6th EAS on the Principles for Mutually Beneficial Relations,'' dated November 19, 2011, the 10 members of Asean, as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the USA reiterated their commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations (UN), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and other recognized principles of international law.

It is encouraging to note that in the same document all 18 EAS participating countries declared themselves willing to create a peaceful environment to further enhance cooperation and strengthen the existing bonds of friendship among them. In keeping with the principles of equality, partnership, consultation, and mutual respect, all will contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world at large.

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Moreover, they declared that they are guided in their relations by a number of clear principles of public international law. The principles enumerated in the Declaration include inter alia the following:

1. Enhancement of mutual respect for independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity;

2. Promotion of good neighbourliness, partnership and community building;

3. Promotion and maintenance of peace, stability, security and prosperity;

4. Non-interference in the internal affairs of another country;

5. Recognition and respect for the diversity of ethnic, religious, cultural traditions and values, as well as diversity of views and positions, including by promoting the voices of moderation;

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6. Enhancement of regional resilience, including in the face of economic shocks and natural disasters;

7. Respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and of social justice;

8. Renunciation of the threat of use of force or use of force against another state; and

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About the Author

Dr Ioan Voicu is a Visiting Professor at Assumption University in Bangkok

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