Is Asean Relevant to the Regional Security of Southeast Asia?

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Q5. Is ASEAN relevant to the regional security of Southeast Asia?

16 pages, including cover page3,176 words (excluding footnotes, endnotes, bibliography)|

Yes, ASEAN is still relevant to the regional security of Southeast Asia. I will attempt to justify my case by elaborating how the 3 key political accords and the ASEAN way has helped shared ASEAN to what it is today. I will also provide a brief summary of ASEAN’s achievements and challenges till date. Finally, I will highlight the main initiatives that ASEAN has taken to overcome future challenges to ensure its continued relevancy to the regional security of Southeast Asia. Background

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok by the five original Member Countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.  Since then, membership has expanded to include Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao, Myanmar and Cambodia. The founding of ASEAN followed the end of Indonesia’s ‘Confrontation’ against Malaysia and Singapore, which had proved costly for Indonesia’s economic development and regional stability. Thus, preventing a repetition of such inter-state confrontation and developing a mechanism for the pacific settlement of disputes were the major considerations behind ASEAN’s formation.

Other reasons for the formation of ASEAN include (a) shared threat perceptions of communist insurgency arising from internal social, economic and political conditions and (b) the desire of the members to enhance economic cooperation for mutual gain especially through collective bargaining with its major trading partners.

The early declarations and statements from summits show that the group was founded primarily to provide a framework for regional political and economic cooperation. Today, ASEAN has developed an organizational structure that looks not only into the political and economic issues in the region but also social development issues. However, the journey was not an easy one. The first decade of ASEAN’s existence was relatively unproductive but much effort was spent developing and refining the concepts that form the basis of its work and methods of cooperation. This has allowed and contributed to regional confidence building, fostering trust and goodwill and developing the habit of working together informally and openly. Threatening changes in the regional environment – such as the perceived weakening of the American commitment to its local allies and the re-emergence of China as a political force – were enough to keep ASEAN united. 3 key political measures established by ASEAN

In order to facilitate ASEAN progress without external interference and to enhance regional peace and stability, several major key political accords were established. Foremost among these are (1) The Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) of 1971, (2) The Treaty of Amity and Co-operation in Southeast Asia (TAC) of 1976 and (3) The Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (SEANWFZ) of 1995. ZOPFAN

It commits all ASEAN members to “exert efforts to secure the recognition of and respect for Southeast Asia as a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality, free from any manner of interference by outside powers,” and to “make concerted efforts to broaden the areas of cooperation, which would contribute to their strength, solidarity and closer relationship.” ZOPFAN recognizes “the right of every state, large or small, to lead its national existence free from outside interference in its internal affairs as this interference will adversely affect its freedom, independence and integrity”. The ZOPFAN Declaration is the expression of ASEAN’s unwillingness to allow the major countries in the East Asian region: China, Japan, the Soviet Union and the United States of America unfettered involvement in Southeast Asia, of extending ASEAN’s responsibility for security as far outwards as possible and of preventing intervention and...
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