Asean has ‘convening ability’ and strives for peace in the region: Vivian

Asean’s capacity to permit countries to create collaborations that bring serenity, bonding and growth in the area places a premium on its “convening ability”, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Friday. Wrapping up the bloc’s series of meetings over the last week, Dr Balakrishnan said that in all of Asean’s engagements, be it internally or with its external partners, it has been able to make the point about how the area is open and inclusive. “We’re not deciding sides, we’re not creating blocs. We want everyone to have a stake in peace, stability (and) growth in Asean,” he said. “We are looking for more investments.

We are willing to enforce more trade. We want more interoperability. And that kind of open, inclusive architecture is one which we have faith will lead to a more serene, more stable and a protected world.” Such a view is enclosed in the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), he noted. The AOIP, a plan executed by Indonesia that was decided in 2019 by Asean leaders at the 34th Asean Summit, lays out the bloc’s common position on area related cooperation, safety and prosperity, as well as its stance on not taking sides with any huge powers taking part for influence in the area.

Although Asean’s external partners have their own versions of an Indo-Pacific plan, these plans should fit into Asean’s outlook, said Dr Balakrishnan. He was saying passionately that the crystal clear message from the outlook is that South-east Asia is not about deciding sides. “We are willing to do trade. I think that message also is got without any doubt by all our dialogue partners, involving the superpowers,” he said. Speeches that were delivered by the nations included in the meetings were “more manageable to dialogue, and Dr Balakrishnan attributed this to the pace of recovery from Covid-19.