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ASEAN must reinvent itself to stay relevant in region

  • Published
    13th Oct, 2023


There is a persistent challenge for ASEAN countries related to symbolic diplomacy, humanitarian aid delays, geopolitical constraints, and South China Sea dispute.

ASEAN's Symbolic Diplomacy

  • Limited Leverage of Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC): ASEAN's 'Epicentrum of Growth' theme highlights economic potential, but TAC enforcement lacks substance.
  • Ukraine's TAC Accession and Symbolism: Ukraine's TAC entry, while symbolic, lacks real leverage in addressing violations or geopolitical matters.
  • ASEAN's Human Rights Commitment and Myanmar Crisis: ASEAN's commitment to human rights contrasts with Myanmar's ongoing violence; internal ASEAN divisions impede resolution efforts.

Political Crisis Management

  • Limitations of Humanitarian Assistance: ASEAN's delays in delivering aid during Myanmar crisis rendered efforts ineffective during the peak of COVID's second wave.
  • Inadequacy in Handling Political Crises: ASEAN's coordinating center geared towards natural disasters, not equipped for political crises, hampers timely response.
  • Diplomatic Limitations and Preventive Diplomacy: ASEAN excels in procedural confidence-building but falls short in areas of preventive diplomacy due to limited clout.

Geopolitical Constraints

  • Economic Integration and Geopolitical Constraints: Deep economic ties with China limit ASEAN's ability to take an independent stance, particularly in the South China Sea.
  • Ineffectiveness in Upholding UNCLOS and Arbitration Ruling: ASEAN's endorsement of UNCLOS contrasts with failure to affirm 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on South China Sea.
  • China's Assertive Posture and ASEAN's Relevance: China's shift to a ten-dash line challenges ASEAN's pursuit of a binding code of conduct, necessitating ASEAN's adaptation.
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