This high power Summit, called the Shangri La Dialogue 2012, commenced yesterday with a keynote speech by H.E. Dr. H Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia, entitled “An Architecture For Durable Peace in the Asia Pacific”.The participants include heads of state of Asean and key govt officials of the major powers.
I searched furiously for a report on this event and was frustratingly denied. I thought it would be a front page news in the main media but it seems that a footballer kicking ball into a bumboat as an advertising gimmick was more newsworthy. I finally found it stashed in a corner and spreaded across page 2 and 3, a small column on each page, not bigger than 4R, that befits its importance as newsworthy.
To me this Dialogue is a major event as it is an Asean statement to the big powers of what Asean’s stand is all about with respect to peace and security in the region. Yudhoyono made the Asean stand clear and to the point. Asean welcome big powers in trade and investment, not polarisation and creating military tension in the region. If big powers are here for economic activities, they are welcomed.
He also made it plain to the Americans that it has no right to stop emerging powers to grow and they should not be treated with suspicion by the Americans. Every emerging power has a rightful place in the regional architecture, ‘Asia is certainly big enough for all powers – established and emerging – and there is always room for new stakeholders, as long as they invest in common peace and progress.’
The Americans must know that this is a plain message that every country, big and small, including every Asean country, has a right to grow and be an emerging power in the region. America cannot labelled any country as dangerous just because they wanted to be an emerging power and to be threatened with the raising of tension in the region, just like the case of North Korea. If the American can make a case out of North Korea, it can do likewise to all regional powers, branding them as dangerous and suspicious, and threatening them with sanctions or threats of war.
It is a noteworthy speech that says Asean has a mind of its own and knows where its interest lies, that peace and security in the region is of paramount importance, and regional conflicts incited by the Americans would not be entertained. Asean will conduct its own brand of diplomacy through peaceful negotiations and not through escalating tension or war.
It is interesting to hear what the Americans have to say this time, raising the spectre of a China or North Korean threat again, and Asean needs the US military presence to counter China?