When the media and the cyber world of Indians are agog with reports and comments on the results of Britain’s referendum on quitting the European Union, we fail to notice the most pertinent point underlying the whole event. That is, the importance of a well mandated regional organisation. It is high time Asia had its regional organisation to secure a common Asian future, ending the costly hostilities and political egos.
Asia is the only continent where there are live hostilities today: India-Pakistan and South-North Koreas; the deadly violence in West Asia is, however, not bilateral. The China-Japan rift is more emotional than anything and could be more readily surmounted through diplomatic efforts. The congenital rivalry within the two sets of twin sisters- India-Pakistan and South-North Koreas- may take more time to resolve, but would definitely be resolved in mutual interest once the common gains are in view and a matured, forward looking political leadership is there to steer the respective countries. A pan Asian Union would make peace and economic progress in the region real.
Look at the history of Europe. Countries have been forming and re-forming there for the greater part of its history. Violence was a daily reality in most of the prosperous countries of today. Factions within its foreign religion (Christianity, originally, is an Asian religion, mind you) of Christianity was good enough for countries of Europe to go to war for a good part of its history. And to engender violence within its societies too. Internal conflicts and violence within the European boarders drastically reduced with the launch of imperial imperialist onslaughts. They changed the theatres of war and violence to the rest of the world, turning most of Asia into its victim. Europe changed this rule only with the first and second pan European wars, wrongly called world wars, and the second big war devastated the warring imperial countries militarily and economically, to our good fortune, resulting in their departure from the countries they had occupied. If the countries of Europe whose history could rightly be termed savage, could shed their hostility, end wars and eventually give up a great part of their respective national sovereignty to create the powerful EU, cant the countries of Asia unite in our common interest. Incidentally, it is worth noting that the EU was created in 1993, marking five hundred years of Colombus’ arrival in what was later called America and the subsequent occupation of the continent. The treaty signing was not held in 1992, the exact year of five centuries, to provide time for the political leaders and diplomats to engage in the Earth Summit process of that year.
There are greater needs for Asia to unite than Europe had. To overcome the entrenched poverty, to build our economies based on our vast resources and capital, to realise the potential of the immense human talent available, to protect the natural environment and more importantly to keep Asia peaceful and free of external interference. A collective Asian position on economic issues in the negotiations with the West can end the skewed trade relations and mark an end to the post colonial exploitation. Asia is home to the ancient civilisations of the Arabs, India and China, it produced all the religions practiced on earth as well as the atheist Confucianism. The West has nothing even remotely comparable to the tremendous cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity of Asia. It has not invaded and colonized countries with the aberration of Japan, but has been victim of all the predatory imperialists of Europe and suffered massive theft of its resources. Asia has survived the imperial onslaught, bounced back and chartered its development course that’s already yielding remarkable results. And it is time to take it forward by forging political and economic alliance across the region.
Asia already has two good precedents to build upon. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the east and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the west. Both these bodies are fairly robust groupings and have yielded valuable lessons to their respective members in regional collectivity. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had a modest start and remains more or less when it had started. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is emerging as a strong regional body with Russia, and India and Pakistan newly joining.
Our democracies are at different stages of development; however, nearly all are on the trajectory towards maturity. The Asian Union can accelerate this process as the economic and social dividends of democracy would then become more obvious. Japan may not be initially enthusiastic about the Asian Union due to its dependence on the US on foreign policy, but once convinced that the US is actually a dispensable burden and that the Chinese threat is imaginary they would want to join too. The constitution of the new union could be designed in a way that the reach of its mandate and the coverage of subjects could be incremental, and allowing room for accommodating differences across countries.Europe’s experience vividly tells us that the neighboring country’s progress and your own is inextricably linked, rather than treating the neighbor with hostility. The government leaders, given to conventional thinking, may take a long time to address the goal of an Asian Union. It would be the role of the civil society and media to take this up on their agenda and build a peoples movement to create the Asian Union. Let us just see how important the West counts its Union. (890 words)
The author is a writer specializing in international environmental treaties.