See editorial ‘ASEAN issues’
THAT the issues related to South East Asia are bouncing to the global centrestage at this particular time has a little ring of concern, thanks to the aggressiveness of two countries, China and North Korea. The appeal of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to the world leaders attending the twin summits to evolve a consensus or a common agenda has to be viewed from this angle. He has insisted that the very nature of projected conflict in the area has all the propensities of exploding all over the world, and that it should be the endeavour of ASEAN leadership to ensure that the conflict does not take place at all or is kept quarantined so that South East Asia does not become a fresh conflict zone finally engulfing the whole world. Even as other leaders seem to agree, however, the unwillingness of North Korea and China to walk along may jeopardise prospects of harmony. If this is going to be the outcome of the ASEAN summits, then it must be said sadly that it was only a formality.
Of course, the global leaders attending the summits in Manila are practical enough to understand the harsh geopolitical reality. There should be little doubt that they would not allow the exercise to be a total waste.
From the Indian point of view, there is a positive outcome -that every other leader is appreciating the contribution of Mr. Narendra Modi to global affairs. United States President Mr. Donald Trump has gone on record appreciating the method, manner and substance of Mr. Modi’s diplomatic engagement. The picture that has continued to emerge from various international activities is that the world listens when Mr. Modi speaks, and ponders seriously when he insists upon the principles involved in seeking resolution to issues. The world leaders realise that India is trying to push the discourse to a vast zone of accommodation of multilateral interests. And they also realise that Mr. Modi is not talking only poetry but has a hard-headed and practical approach to solutions of ticklish issues.
Despite the greatness of many an Indian leader in the past, the world often took the Indian point of view as a poetic expression of a global view. Today, that is not the picture. The Prime Minister of India is being treated as a hard-headed practitioner of the art of diplomacy, asking hard questions, seeking hard answers, suggesting practical solutions, expecting the world to sit up and take notice in the most serious manner.
In the ASEAN context as well, Mr. Modi is continuing to play a similar role -- perhaps more authentically, more authoritatively -- much to the surprise of most and even chagrin of a few. But the assiduousness with which Mr. Modi has pursued the Indian initiative on global platforms has now taken India to a position in which the world may love India or hate India but never ignore India and her point of view. This position of being an imperative, being a serious global player, being a believer and seeker of tough solutions to hard issues is the outcome of the Prime Minister’s creative genius.
Of course, the current state of the world is truly complex with the threats that span from North Korea to China to the Middle East with Islamic State to the almost sudden toughening of the American stance against Islamic radicalism. To fit this complex jig-saw puzzle into a formatted diplomatic framework is certainly a daunting task. As the world leaders fiddle with solutions, India has the privilege of a leader who has earned certain gravitas, certain presence in the centrestage as a major player. This is, of course, not today’s urging; Indian leadership across decades has contributed to this situation. Yet, Mr. Modi’s contribution is to push things to fruition at this stage to national advantage.