Pakistan Observer

NATO knocks the door of ASEAN


Dr Jassim Taqui

Friday, July 29, 2011 - Islamabad—Having failed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has decided to change direction towards Southeast Asia. In this regard, NATO showed keen interest to establish partnership with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). ASEAN is a geo-political and economic organization of ten countries located in Southeast Asia. It was formed on 8th August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Since then the membership has expanded to include Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Its aims include the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, and cultural development among its members. The focus of ASEA is the protection of peace and stability of the region, and to provide opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully.

In 1990, Malaysia proposed the creation of East Asia Economic Caucus compromising the ten members of ASEN as well as China, Japan, and South Korea to counterbalancing the growing influence of the United States in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and in the Asian region as a whole. The proposal failed but member states created ASEAN Plus Three in 1997.

However, the United States continues to influence ASEAN since 1997. This time, Washington is combining with India to influence the region in a bid to neutralize the rising cooperation between ASEAN and China. During her visit to India, the US Secretary of State Ms Hillary Clinton urged India to expand its traditional sphere of influence from South Asia to Central Asia and Southeast Asia to contain China’s increasing assertiveness. Ostensibly, Clinton’s slip of the tongue suggests a strategy that aims to encircle China in its backyard in Southeast Asia and Pacific Rim on one hand and to boost engagement in Central Asia, on China’s western flank on the other.

Clinton’s tone is confrontational. It justifies the containment of China by Washington and New Delhi on the ground of “common values and interests.” Clinton also announced that the Obama administration would soon launch a three-way dialogue with India and Japan to counter China.

Suddenly, India has become the darling of Clinton. Now, Clinton is openly courting India as an Asia-Pacific power. This clearly shows that one major reason that made the United States dump Pakistan was Islamabad’s rejection of US scheming against China.

Indications suggest that US-led NATO would fail in its attempt to forge an alliance with ASEAN against China. For, China belongs to the region and ASEAN-China cooperation is institutionalized. The China-ASEAN relations are pillar to the east Asia’s regional stability and economic prosperity. China’s rapid development is a model for ASEAN. Further, the volume of trade between the two sides has jumped from $7.9 billion to $292.8 billion last year, soaring by more than 30 times. China is implementing the second China-ASEAN Five-Year Action Plan to bring the volume of bilateral trade to $500 billion.

As for Pak-China ties, they are eternal. There is no way Pakistan can follow the US game of containing or destabilizing China. For, destabilizing China means destabilization of Pakistan.

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