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Asia’s Challenge and a Ray of Hope
Source: thenews.com.pk
Source Date: Saturday, December 25, 2010
Focus: Information Access, Health
Created: Dec 28, 2010

Since after the World War II, Asia’s geopolitical landscape has gone through a sea change in terms of its emerging political, economic and strategic problems and priorities. In the post-World War II era, the real Cold War was enacted on Asian soils which witnessed some of the most violent eruptions of the East-West struggle, and even some of the longest wars of the last century.

These include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the conflicts in Laos and Cambodia, the Arab-Israeli wars, the three India-Pakistan wars, the Iran-Iraq War, the Afghan War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and now the ongoing US war in Afghanistan in the name of the global “war on terror”. Not to mention this war’s extension into our own country as a full-scale war against our own people, with demands that we further expand it into other areas. It is a precarious scenario.

Asia is a vast region, home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, covering almost one-third of the earth’s landmass and comprising some of the most important regions of the world: the poverty-stricken and tension-ridden South Asia, the resource-rich yet politically unstable Central Asia, the economically pulsating East Asia, the volatile Middle East and the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

These regions have historic civilisational affinities among their peoples and are also endowed with unmatched natural resources and mutual complementarities giving their vast geographical space an unparalleled strategic, economic and political significance. Asia’s regions have been the focus of world attention with non-Asian powers always looking at them with anxiety and concern in the context of their turbulent political history, economic potential and the vast array of their intraregional issues.

The post-9/11 world has seen an unprecedented change in the nature and gravity of its problems. While countries and nations have been able to move away from the bitter antagonisms of the past to embrace peace, Asia’s major regions continue to be a global hotspot. The long-standing Asian issues include the Palestine question, the Kashmir issue, the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and across the Strait of Taiwan and the triangular relations among Japan, the US and China, or in an expanded regional context, pentagonal relations among these three powers plus Russia and India.

The ramifications of endless tensions and instability in some parts of Asia for global peace and security are immense. Some of the sources of current tensions and conflicts in Asia include America’s yet-to-end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its growing military and nuclear cooperation with India, the Iranian nuclear crisis, North Korea’s worrisome nuclear and ICBM capability, the deadlocked six-party talks on this issue, and other unresolved territorial disputes in the region, including those between Japan and Russia, China and South Korea.

The new unipolarity has created serious imbalance of global power. The concept of collective security and acceptance of moral and legal imperatives enshrined in the UN Charter are no longer the basis of the world order today. Historical grievances and outstanding disputes continue to remain unaddressed. Economic adventurism of the 19th century is back.

What aggravates this scenario is the growing inability of the international community to respond to these challenges with unity of purpose. Iraq is still simmering. Afghanistan has yet to have peace. Kashmir is disillusioned. Palestine has given up. Germany has been reunited but the Korean Peninsula remains artificially divided.

China represents Asia’s only ray of hope. As a pillar of strength for the world community, China is already playing an important role not only for the maintenance of international peace and security but also in averting any major global economic crises. A strong and prosperous China is a guarantee for peace, security and stability not only for Asia but for the world at large.

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a discernible change in China’s foreign policy which, based on the principle of peaceful coexistence, has had an important effect on modern international relations. Pragmatism has been the determining factor of this change which includes improvement of its relations with the US and other advanced countries, as well as with its immediate neighbours including India.

Regarding its differences or disputes with some of its neighbours, China’s policy is that they should be “appropriately managed and resolved through dialogue and consultation based on facts and in accordance with the basic norms governing international relations”. Accordingly, China has peacefully addressed its border issues with Russia and is engaged in creating a friendly neighbourhood with other adjacent countries.

It has also developed close and cooperative relations with ASEAN countries and is an active member of the ASEAN Regional Forum. This year, China has had high-level visits and exchanges with almost all Asian countries including India and Pakistan. Next year, Pakistan and China will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations.

While China is not oblivious of the problems resulting from the US-led new unipolarity, it remains convinced that the 21st century is the century of new opportunities. It sees bright prospects opening up with human society developing at an unprecedented pace and scale. For itself, China has identified its goals for the initial decades of this century which involve further economic growth, improved democracy, better education and advanced science and technology, and an upgrading of the quality of life for its people.

Globally, China is today a major stabilising force in the world’s economic and fiscal system, and an important player in restoring global harmony as a key mediating force and organiser of the tripartite and the six-party talks aimed at resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. It is also an effective, stabilising player in the UN Security Council. As a partner of the Group of 77, China is in complete solidarity with the causes of developing and non-aligned countries.

In today’s chaotic world, the US concept of “Long War” and the Chinese concept of “Rising Peacefully” seem to blend together the forces of conflict and peace, determining the new contours of the world order, which are so very different from the Cold War concept and the fading unipolar world order. Asia is large and rich enough to represent the real East of the world now totally dominated by the West.

For Asia, the real challenge in the 21st century is to capitalise on its own resources and assert its role as a balancing factor in the unipolar world by carving out a new niche for itself in the global geopolitical matrix. It has the power and the clout to do so as one of the largest geographical groups at the UN where it must now decisively stake a claim for an additional Asian permanent seat in the Security Council for a criteria-based rotation among the important Asian states.

India must cede its regional hegemonic ambitions to a larger regional cause. Asian states must rise above sub-regional mode and concentrate on a common Asian cause by concerting their policies on issues of global relevance while also addressing Asia’s interstate and intraregional issues in an appropriate manner. China may have eschewed international power politics in favour of securing its continued economic growth, but it cannot resist grasping the nettle for too long.
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