Comments on Ryo Sahashi “A three-tier approach to Asian regional architecture”, 20/05/2009, http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2009/05/20/a-three-tier-approach-to-asian-regional-architecture/
This is my third comment on this article - likely to be the last one.
There is the European Union; there is the African Union; there is the Summit of the Americas. Asia is world largest continent with about half of the world population. Yet there has been no such a thing as the Asian Union, or the Summit of Asians. Neither culturally, economically, or militarily, is Asia world most advanced, nor is it the least developed. So in the modern time of integration or globalisation, why has this been the case for so long? One has to ask. The answer is not necessarily an easy one.
I don’t attempt to provide an answer to that question here because I am not qualified to do it that I know that for sure. What I would like to venture, however, is to try to contribute constructively to the future. This is because I was born in Asia (in its true meaning) and had lived there for more than half of my current life long. I must, as a matter of disclosure of information, say that I am now a Chinese Australian, not far from Asia in its true meaning. Further one can recall that Mr Gareth Evans, former Australian foreign minister, had tried very hard to put Australia into the map of Asia during his time as the minister, that is, to join Asia.
I think Asians should establish an Asian Union as a community for Asians to look after the affairs including the security of Asia and advance the wellbeing of Asians. The membership of such a union should be open to any countries in Asia. In that, it should include countries which have part of their land in Asia, such as Russia, if that is what they want to do. It could potentially include Australia and Oceania, but that should be a matter for the Asian Union to decide, taking into account the efforts by Australians wanting to be a part of Asia.
What governing structure should such an Asian Union have? It should have permanent annual summit of heads of government/country to decide the priority agenda for the next year. This is an assembly of Asians. The Union should have a permanent secretariat organisation, similar to that of the UN Security Council. Such a secretariat may have a number of permanent members and a group of rotating members to be effective. Its president / secretary general should be rotated among the members or representatives of groups of members with much smaller populations of each.
The permanent members of the secretariat should ideally be a small odd number, such as 5 or 7. They may come from a combination of the most populous countries and the largest economies in Asia. Instead of each of the permanent members having a veto right, the majority of the permanent members can veto on any matters of draft resolutions. This will make the secretariat more representative and effective than UN’s current governing structure.
I think such an Asian Union will be the next step in Asia development in its long history. It is badly needed now, given the development of the other continents. Those large Asian countries should put aside their historical issues aside and take the leadership of Asia. The simply matter of fact is this: if you don’t want to be strong and look after your own affairs, you will not be strong and your interests have to be looked after by others who may or may not put your interests first in their agenda, and why should they?
More realistically, I think the existing platform of ASEAN plus three could form the impetus of an organisation of the Asian Union. Alternatively, it would be better if India could be included in such a formation process, given its share of the Asian population.
There should be plenty of important and urgent Asian regional issues to be addressed by the Asian Union, not only the economic development, trade and investment, but issues such as the North Korea nuclear issue, the conflict in Afghanistan, the instability in Pakistan and some other regions in Asia. If the Asian Union is created and operates effectively, issues such as the increase in regional military expenditures, regional territorial dispute can all be on the agenda. It could also contribute to the resolution of the Middle East conflicts.
A true and more transparent Asian Union that is not in the shadow of any other world powers will be in the long term interests of all Asians. I look forward to its creation in the not so distant future.