At a time when tensions loom over many parts of Asia—from the lingering civil war in Syria to simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea—leaders from the 26-member Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) produced a milestone declaration at a recent summit in Shanghai. The declaration highlighted their strong political will to work together in an increasingly complex international environment.
The success of the summit may come as a surprise to many. But the fact that CICA leaders were able to formulate a collective response to common challenges is evidence that Asian countries remain committed to engaging in talks to solve their problems. Moreover, they are eager to play a leading role in regional affairs.
This growing willingness to collaborate is rooted in Asian countries' shared aspirations for peace and development. While redoubling their efforts to rev up economic growth, improve living standards and maintain social stability, they must cement bonds with one another in pursuit of greater benefits. Take China for instance. The rapidly emerging economy is ready to share its opportunities with neighbors, as evidenced by ambitious programs such as the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century. At the same time, it needs their cooperation in addressing problems such as terrorism, cross-border crime and drug trafficking. As it assumes the chairmanship of the CICA from 2014-16, China looks poised to spearhead a regional quest for stability and prosperity.
Asia has been a pivotal engine driving the global economic recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. The sustainable development of Asia, which accounts for about two thirds of the world's population and one third of its total GDP, is a blessing to humanity. In this sense, high credit should be given to the CICA. Representing the diversity of the vast continent, the forum aims to facilitate Asia's progress. On this platform, Asian countries can cash in on their diverse cultures and economic resources to boost cooperation and dispute resolution.
Of course, Asia is an open continent. It welcomes major global players, such as the United States. But as they get involved in the region, they must respect its realities and traditions. The past years have seen numerous cases in which their pursuit of national security resulted in the destabilization of countries in Asia. The Iraq War is an obvious case in point.
Unfortunately, such practices have yet to be cast aside. Despite claims it would not take sides on territorial rows between China and some of its neighbors, Washington has openly supported its allies involved in the disputes, prompting many Chinese analysts to caution against what they perceive to be a return of the containment policy. This biased approach will not help countries in the region resolve their differences, but may instead damage mutual trust, heighten instability and eventually jeopardize its own interests.
As Asian countries continue communicating at various forums including the CICA, outside powers should consider bolstering this culture of dialogue as the right thing to do.