Driving Forces of Regionalism in South-East Asia: End of the Cold War

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To what extent and in what ways have the driving forces of regionalism in South-east Asia changed since the end of the Cold War?

Regionalism has become a trend in many regions of the world. Among them, Europe, North America and Asia (Asia Pacific region) are crucial ones. Some observers argue that the world order have been divided between these three regions with the existence of the European Union (EU), the North American Free trade Agreement (NFTA) and The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This divergent part of the world requires comprehensive realization to make sense of how they have developed throughout history. In particular, writing the history of Southeast Asia remains a challenge as it involves the understanding of ‘societies that often took quite different view of the past …(and) a region where the implications of that historical tradition may have a political significance’[1]. Clapham notes that it is even more challenging to analyse foreign policy making in Southeast Asia region[2]. The early 1970’s was a significant period for the states in this region as it was during this time that five countries decided to join together and define their position in the Cold War between two superpowers and claimed their neutrality. The fact that ASEAN has come up with such a policy is interesting to look at as it gives not only an insight of the driving forces of regionalism in Southeast Asia but also how these developing states saw themselves and formulate their foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. This paper aims to analyse ASEAN’s behaviour in order to access to what extent regionalism has changed since the end of Cold War in Southeast Asia. In that, regionalism would be conceived as ‘a state-led or states-led project designed to reorganize a particular regional space along defined economic and political lines’[3]. The discussion is divided into four parts. The first part discusses the useful theoretical insights of security community to explain why ASEAN states cooperate in the midst of new security challenge in the region. The second part identifies the diplomacy of ASEAN during the post-Cold War period. Given the confine of this paper, the discussion specifically examines the event of the Spratly Islands and the creation of ARF. In the concluding section, achievements and prospects for ASEAN will be addressed. The central argument that this paper advance is that regionalism in Southeast Asia has changed and the changes have been driven and constrained by the security condition during the post-Cold War era where a regional power vacuum is found.

ASEAN emerged from the Cold War as a regional organization in 1967. With the accession of Cambodia, it seemed to be fulfilling the aspirations of its founding fathers to expand membership to include all ten Southeast Asian countries. However, with the end of Cold War and the settlement of Cambodian conflict, ASEAN is facing a new challenge related to issues of security and stability in the post-Cold War regional environment[4]. According to the Bangkok Declaration of 1967, the goal of ASEAN is to ‘accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region; to safeguard the political and economic stability of the region against big power rivalry; and to serve as a forum for the resolution of intra-regional differences’[5]. The formation of ASEAN should be seen as a means of maintaining peace and stability by providing a forum for the discussion and resolution of regional issues relating to security. There are indeed a number of incidents to show that security issue is the major concern of ASEAN such as the call for a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN), the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and ASEAN’s role in the Cambodian conflict in the 1980s. However, with the end of Cold War, ASEAN faced a new challenge to its goal when the security environment of South-east Asia was transformed by the change from...
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