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"Whether we like it or not, our economies are closely integrated with the world
financial markets and subject to their harsh disciplines. Likewise, whether we approve
or disapprove the attitude of our people, children and grandchildren are linked to
the global instant communications.
"This can be worrisome but it can also be welcoming. It all depends on us and
our perception of the types of societies which are to come.
"I am confident the people of Asean will adjust to keep abreast with the on-going
Information Technology (IT) revolution. Those who have the political strength, acumen,
sagacity and the will to change and adapt quickly and intelligently and thoroughly,
will reap the best rewards and can face any challenge with ease, now or in future.
"The future for Asean, despite lacking a genuine common vision above parochial
interests, is bright.
The troubles in Cambodia did not and do not impinge much upon the national interests
of any of the other eight members. But, we should not allow, through our passivity,
troubles to escalate which may inflict more damage to our solidarity, peace and common
interest in future.
"It is for us to decide what kind of Asean we want. What is not in Asean can
be added, and what is imperfect can be improved. More importantly, I think, as we
adjust and enter the IT society and the new millennium we must also strengthen our
Asean or Asian values.
"As we know better than our compatriots who have never been to the United States
and are unlikely to come here, Asian values are Asian values: American values are
American values. Still the twain can meet. And we are good examples.
"We have brought some understanding and appreciation of the wisdom of Asia to
the Americans, and we, too, have learned much from their wisdom and education.
"More important, even wise to remember that no one nor any nation in Asean has
a monopoly of wisdom. Let us always deliberate, and take from each of us the best
each has or can offer, and together build a stronger, better and prosperous Asean
as we have never seen. Let us all make our region stronger, not so easily shaken
by economic turmoil, currency manipulation or cultural corruption.
"I am confident that Asean economies will make the necessary changes, painful
though they may be, and Asean will once again be a region of high growth.
"We must not make mistake to over react!
"A stronger cross-cultural linkage will bring political and economic benefits
to all of us and thereby eliminate our remaining differences. And this can be achieved
best in an atmosphere of stability and growth. Let us focus on what we have in common,
and what we want most in life for us and the generation to come.
"Perhaps, it is not out place to remind you all that Asean was formed because
of a common enemy, communism. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam
were enemies while the United States and Western Europe were friends.
"When Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand were under
communist threat our then leaders - Tunku Abdul Rahman, Lee Kuan Yew, Marcos, Thanat
Khoman and Suharto formed Asean in 1967. But when China fought Vietnam over the Soviet
supported-Vietnamese takeover of Cambodia, Beijing became a non-enemy.
"You should all remember that the current nine nations of Asean do not have
a common enemy to unite them, and if as Lee Kuan Yew says, China is prudent and tactful,
there will be none. We are quite united over the Spratlys and China realizes this.
While we need to develop a viable long-term relationship with China, our friendship
with the United States is of long standing, and we must not only scrupulously maintain
but strengthen it.
"Both you and I have total Asean immersion, be it Malaysian, Vietnamese or Thai
and also an enriching American experience. We have, whether we like it or not, become
the bridge between the Americans and Aseans. All will benefit if the United States-Asean
relationship flourishes and remains stable.
"Having said that and as we advance, as each progresses, one must not lose one's
sense or identity, however. Each of us must strive to be infused with the cultures
of greater Asean,
"Our common heritage of Asian values are best maintained and our great economic
expectations are more likely to be achieved when our region is stable and peaceful."
Unsurprised, I found that Asian students at Cornell are hardworking, clever and contemporary.
Their zeal for greater regional solidarity if not integration and for the "Asean
vision" has made me promise to visit them again next year.
Next week, I go to my alma mater, Harvard, to participate in a forum on Human
Rights in the West and East at the Centre for International Affairs and to giv
e a talk on, guess what? Dr Mahathir, currency manipulation and the haze at the Kennedy
School of Government and Politics.
Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations
(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )