Mahbubani: ASEAN's Strength Is Its Imperfections

Last update: 13/10/2017

By Manik Mehta

NEW YORK, Oct 13 (Bernama) -- While many have in the past characterized ASEAN's strength as 'unity in diversity', Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the Singapore-based Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore, preferred to say that 'ASEAN's strength is its imperfections!'

With a flummoxed Daniel Russel, the former Assistant Secretary of State (Asia/Pacific affairs) in the Obama administration politely staring at him, Mahbubani went on to explain that ASEAN's remarkable success at maintaining peace and stability was due to its 'imperfections' because the countries of Southeast Asian were then constantly in conflict with each other.

This scene was played out at the Asia Society In New York on Wednesday night when Russel, now a diplomat in residence and senior fellow at the Asia Policy Institute, quizzed Mahbubani on America's goodwill reservoir in Southeast Asia.

Mahbubani highlighted the concerns of Asian leaders who feel that U.S. President Donald Trump has so far not seriously reinforced America's commitment to the Asia Pacific region where China is increasingly asserting and even engaging in bellicose conduct in proportion to Washington's waning interest.

Mahbubani, who was Singapore's two-term permanent representative to the United Nations and had diplomatic postings in Malaysia, Cambodia, and Washington DC, was introduced to the audience as ?one of the leading thinkers not only of Asia but also the world? by Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of Asia Society.

"America has the opportunity to preserve the reservoir of goodwill in Southeast Asia," he exclaimed, adding that the past 30 years had been the best 30 years of humanity (for ASEAN), reflected in developments such as better healthcare, reduction of poverty and growth of the middle class.....