1/1/07

A Grand Dream: UNIFIED ASIA

. 1/1/07


“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” -- Confucius


“Today, the Asians are aware of their position and are striving hard to secure their rightful place in the world. The new century is going to be the Asian Century.”

In the present age, the concept of sovereignty, national security, national interests and concerns have acquired a new dimension with wider ramifications and that is the reason why the definition of national security has been broadened to include ways and means to combat illegal production and trade of narcotics, the growth and menace of terrorism, the outbreak of diseases, environmental degradation, arms race, and expansion of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The growing influence and domination of multinationals and the instrumental use of international organizations have also been included in this category. In fact, these are the regional and continental issues which call for cooperation among states within region. In other words, stability and security are matters of national concerns and it is in the interest of all concerned to address these issues in Asian context.

Asia is strategically located on the world map and due to its geopolitical importance; superpowers would like to have it under their hegemony. I'm sure that if all the geopolitical factors and elements in Asia come together then the centre for making decisions and mantle of leadership of the world would shift from Europe and America to Asia. If that happens then the whole international system will change, and this change will surely dampen the spirit of expansionism. Therefore they will try their best to mobilize all their sources to prevent this from happening.

The Asian community has its own identity, value-systems, common destiny and are facing the new challenges. The recent political and economic developments and amazing breakthroughs made in science and technology have created a new world reality. Obviously, Asia cannot afford to stay isolated while these developments unfold themselves. The experiences of the past two centuries are reminders for all Asians that indecision, hesitation and antagonism can once again resurrect the evil of colonialism of the past centuries in a new and even modernized form.

POTENTIALITIES OF ASIA

The Asian continent is located at a significant point which gives it a unique position. It has 60 per cent of the global population and can provide the best manpower to the world. It occupies 33 per cent of the earth's space and is in top position among all the continents of the world. Several Asian countries also have nuclear weapons and advanced technology; so, it is essential for them to come out of the dominance of Europe and America.

They have enough subterranean sources-75 per cent of oil resources of the world. Natural gas and coal are in abundance. Asia is not only self-sufficient, but can also provide for the needs of other countries. Japan and Indian Ocean rim countries have a prominent position in the field of international economy and commerce. India is fast developing and trying her best to occupy a prominent position on the globe. In the international trades, light and heavy industries, consumer products and extractable outputs. Asian countries are entrenched in a competing position. This provides an opportunity and a ground for thinking seriously about the formation of the Asian Economic Market.

OBSTACLES AND PREVENTIVE MEASURES

1. Geographical Extension
It is obvious that there is an inverted relationship between geographical extension of space with integrity and homogeneity of physical and human particulars. Thus, whenever geographical space is small, homogeneity of its particulars will be more pronounced, and vice versa.

Therefore in regional divisions, the Asian continent is divided into different parts and each part of Asia will possess the common particulars, which also will have the regional particulars.

2. Internal Disputes
In Asia there are disputes and struggles between some countries and that is so in other continents as well there are some Asian disputes which seem to be internalized but have their impact on the region, like Afghanistan and Tajikistan. In the same way there are inter-state disputes which are visible in Caucasia, Peninsula of Korea Indo-Pakistan and Indo­-China, to name a few.

3. External Power's Domination
In the last few centuries, America and European powers expanded their domination and exploited the resources of Asia. They also established their direct and indirect presence in this continent. They know well, that Asia has geopolitical importance in today's world. I repeat that if all the geopolitical factors in Asia are put together, then the geographical centre for decision-making and leadership of the world would shift from Europe and America to Asia. In that case, the entire world equations and international systems will change. It is quite obvious that American and European powers would not agree to this since they would be losing their hegemonic hold on the world and therefore, they will try to thwart the whole concept of Asian Unity.

4. Lack of Trust
Asia needs 'confidence', and lack of trust is responsible for a number of conflicts in Asia. It also had a detrimental effect on commercial 'cooperation across the continent, and also hampered the efforts to achieve scientific and technological progress.

Fortunately, in 1990s, we witnessed renewed efforts by Asian states to revive trust and confidence. Throughout this decade, a number of confidence-building measures were taken to build mutual trust.

The economical and commercial organizations such as the ASEAN, the SAARC, etc., have been the vital instruments, paving the way for more cooperation and establishing 'confidence' in the region. The population of the ECO and SAARC countries is about 1.5 billion. As many as 17 Asian countries are members of these two organizations. Thus the possibility of establishing closer ties between the two organizations must be seriously explored.

DIFFERENT SCENARIOS FOR ASIAN UNITY

1. The Geographical Scenario
The geographical scenario veers round the majority of Asian countries, coming together on the basis of common geographical territory. On the other hand, geography is the main axis of this unity. The scenario seems to be more idealistic and may not be achieved in a short span of time. Yet, it could be a living example for our future generations.

2. The Geopolitical Scenario
This scenario is based on geopolitics. We observe that this continent can be divided into four geopolitical regions with some countries in a polar position. These regions are:

East Asia: This area includes China, North and South Korea, Mongolia, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar with the countries like China, Japan and Indonesia in a pivotal position.

South Asia: This includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal and Maldives. India and Pakistan have a good geo­political location.

West Asia: This area includes Iran, Afghanistan, Oman, UAE, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Pales­tine, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Iran, Turkey and Syria are placed in polar positions, respectively.

Central Asia: This area includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenis­tan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

3. Common Stances Scenario
On the basis of this scenario the first nucleus of the unity can emerge with the presence of some Asian countries that have common stances and views on the international and national affairs. Then the other Asian countries can gradually join this unity. For example the countries which have common views about the security of Asia, Asian economic common market, Asian common culture and so on, can serve as the very nucleus of this unity.

4. Dialogue among Civilizations Scenario
'Dialogue Among Civilizations' is a major cultural and political issue of our times which is bound to have an important bearing on the life of the future generations, purging them of ugly influences while endowing them with spirituality. I fully recognize that any excessive optimism regarding the immediate emergence of the Dialogue Among Civilizations can be challenging. So equally an exaggerated sense of pessimism under the current circumstances will be misplaced.

Undoubtedly, in the contemporary sense and with the dawn of new millennium, the issue of the Dialogue Among Civilizations can serve as one of the most effective means for eliminating misconceptions, misunderstandings, miscalculations and mistrusts between the nations of the world. The issue of Dialogue is a delicate one. It calls for great patience, tolerance and mutual respect.

The end of the cold war has infused a sense of solidarity and calls for a commitment to respect for life. liberty, justice and equality and integrity that have yet to materialize. In the language of Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director, UN, 'The global village, the new world order and the peace dividend are all buzzwords of the 1990s that reflect an optimistic outlook for the dawning of the new century.'

As the mankind moves towards the third millennium, people are slowly getting into the climate of what former UN Secretary-General Boutros Ghali called a 'new isolationism'. Those segments of civiliza­tions have survived that have been endowed with the 'power of commu­nication' and which involves 'speaking and listening'. The Dialogue Among Civilizations entails both. This is a virtue which should be cultivated and is not found easily. To acquire it, one has to embark on a course of rigorous training designed to enrich one's morality and intellectual capacity.

I am reminded of what a former Russian President said on 15 March 1990. 'No system of power can replace morality which is necessary in human society. The dialogue only can take care of regression of political culture and effect a transition from culture of war to culture of peace.'

Interactions and achievements made amongst the world's civilizations, past and present, have gone on to create cultural pluralism and harness creativity in human diversity. The Dialogue is, therefore, not only important for peace and harmony but is the very foundation of creativity and development.

To bring the hearts together, it is necessary for the minds to be brought closer. This can be done by special efforts of great thinkers to understand the great concepts and then try to communicate these to the people.

Asia is the oldest continent of the world with most ancient civilizations in its fold. The most notable schools of thought as well as the most significant ideological and religious movements were born in Asia-Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism in India, Zoroasterism in Persia, Confucianism in China, Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Mesopotamia and the Arabian peninsula.

Let us take a look at the main tenets in the aforementioned thoughts and religions:

Taoism preaches the virtues of a simple life and the denial of selfishness.

Confucianism's emphasis is on moral and social order for society. It lays great emphasis on three relationships-between: the ruler and subjects, father and son, husband and wife.

Jainism's true essence is Ahimsa or non-injury and this avoids hurting or killing of any object.

Buddhism taught four noble truths: Suffering, Suffering has a cause, Cause is a desire, it is possible to put an end to suffering, if desire is removed.

Hinduism also emphasizes humanity, peace, and a uniform code of life.

Zoroastrian teachings are based on right vision, right word and right action.

Islam, Christianity and Judaism believe in God, life after death, and purification of man and society.

After going through different thoughts and religions of Asia, from ancient times to the present, we witness harmony, respect for mankind and institutions, non-injury, removing suffering from life, encouragement of right vision and action, compassionate and as a whole, a system of values which all people in Asia believe in for a fruitful and constructive dialogue closer to their heart. We can call it 'Asian Values System'.

To make this dialogue materialize, three countries enjoying great civilizational backgrounds can be mentioned as they enjoy a significant position in Asia: Iran in West Asia, India in South Asia and China in East Asia.

With this civilizational background it was quite natural for it to raise the issue of 'Dialogue Among Civilizations' at the crucial juncture, when there are so many complexities in the international arena. It really needs firm will and calculated move to succeed in this long march to achieve success. In the initial phase the scope of the civilizational dialogue should remain confined to Asia. The Asian countries with their unique specifications, with their own civilized backgrounds and with their common historical and social ties will be able to put the focus on the idea of 'Dialogue' in their respective regions. The regionalization of the dialogue could then serve as an example for other parts of the world.

Today, the Asians are aware of their position and are striving hard to secure their rightful place in the world. The new century is going to be the Asian Century.


Happy New Year!

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