After a speech calling for the establishment of a new multilateralism where nations, especially Asia, would not have to take sides between the United States and China, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has said the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) would not need to choose between India and China.
“Asean is located between two great civilisations, China and India. Both these countries, as part of the Asean architecture, the Asean +3 and the East Asia Summit, are quite happy to accept Asean as the centrality in the whole process,” Najib said in reply to a question at the opening of the International Institute for Strategic Studies Asian Security Summit: The Shangri La Dialogue.
“Both these two countries want to engage constructively with Asean and (are) looking at ways and means of increasing their trade, investment and other forms of exchanges with the Asean countries. In short, I am quite optimistic we can develop a meaningful and constructive relationship with India and China,” he added.
Asean, comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, has been central to India’s ‘Look East’ policy and an India-Asean free trade agreement has been operational since last year, though a deal in services and investment is yet to be completed. The agreement is targeting to reach $70 billion in trade by 2012.
On the other hand, there is also a China-Asean free trade area, which came into force last year and comprises the largest free trade area in terms of population. China is Asean’s biggest trading partner and two-way trade is set to reach $500 billion by 2015.
“I believe Asean can engage with China and India in a very constructive way, and if you look at the fact and the figures, especially trade and investment, they are rising at a very impressive rate. If we continue on that trajectory, our economies would be further integrated and so would our people. That is one of the important building blocks towards peace and security,” Najib said.
He also implored the international community, including the United States, to reassess their alarmist view of China’s growing military capacity. “The rise of China will be a benign influence. It is a mistake to see it as an adversary,” Najib said.
‘India should be the most worried’
Before an eminent gathering of ministers, mandarins, diplomats, academics and uniformed military brass, mostly from the Asia Pacific, the UK and the US began deliberations over the state of security in the region. A leading non-proliferation expert underlined the real risks India faced from Pakistan’s unrelenting nuclear programme.
Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Pakistan was continuing its fissile material production despite having roughly matched India, and was fostering an arms race in the subcontinent. He also raised doubts about the safety of the neighbouring nation’s nuclear installations in the backdrop of bin Laden’s death and attacks on its military bases.
India should be the most worried, he said, given the history of conflict and, more recently, deadly terrorists attacks from groups based in Pakistan.
‘Indo-US ties have really transformed’
The partnership between India and US will be “an indispensable pillar of stability in South Asia and beyond”, Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense said on Saturday, underscoring the growing importance of a relationship that has changed significantly over the last decade.
The Indo-US relationship has transformed “from an uneasy coexistence during the cold war to a partnership based on shared democratic values and vital economic and security interests,” he said at the second day of the IISS Asian Security Summit: The Shangri La Dialogue.
Meanwhile, P Raju, India’s minister of state for defence, called for a holistic approach towards maritime security while underlining the adverse economic impact of unstable and unsecured sea routes, especially in the Indian Ocean.
“The Indian Ocean accounts for half of the world’s container traffic and 70 per cent of the global petroleum traffic. The total cost of piracy in Indian Ocean is estimated to be around $ 7 -12 bn in 2010 and is expected to exceed $ 15 bn by 2015,” Raju said.
Describing the global maritime environment as “alarmingly complex”, Raju indicated the need for a fresh look at the issue.
Source : Business Standard