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By Design or Accident

Reflections on Asian Security

Daljit Singh

Publication Year: 2010

Asia is rising and will wield greater economic and strategic weight in world affairs. However Asia also faces numerous challenges like poverty, domestic instability, deficiencies in governance and the rule of law, inter-state disputes and rivalries, and military build-ups, to name just a few. The celebration of Asia's rise would be premature if it is not accompanied by lasting peace and cooperation between states and justice and prosperity at home. The achievement of this happy state of affairs will require continuation of wise and pragmatic leadership, especially among the major powers. This collection of essays reflects on some of the major political and security issues in the region in recent times, including the balance of power among the major powers, American engagement and policies in Asia, India's rise, the global war on terrorism, the Iraq war, domestic developments in some countries as well as ASEAN's efforts to build regional peace and security.

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Daljit and I were classmates at Raffles Institution, from 1952 to 1957. He was one of the top students of the school. After completing his university education, he joined the civil service and served in several senior positions. Daljit has always had a scholarly inclination and it was therefore natural for him to transit from the civil service to the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Asia is rising and will wield greater economic and strategic weight in world affairs. However, Asia also faces numerous challenges like poverty, domestic instability, deficiencies in governance and the rule of law, interstate disputes and rivalries, and military build-ups, to name just a few. ...

Part I: Southeast Asia and Regional Security after the Cold War

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1. Sino-Vietnamese Reconciliation: Cause for Celebration?

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pp. 3-5

The chain reactions produced by the ending of the Cold War and the vast changes in the Soviet Union over the last few years are still working themselves through Asia. In Southeast Asia they are producing another turn of the geopolitical kaleidoscope. ...

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2. Asia-Pacific Security Comes under ASEAN’s Scrutiny

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pp. 6-9

This has changed with the end of the Cold War. ASEAN has now shown active interest in not just Southeast Asian but also broader Asia-Pacific security issues. The Singapore Declaration issued last year at the Fourth ASEAN Summit states that “ASEAN should intensify its external dialogues in political and security matters by using the ASEAN Post- Ministerial Conferences (PMC).” ...

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3. East Asian Security Means Dialogue and US Will

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pp. 10-13

Rapid growth is transforming the economic landscape of East Asia. Together with changes set in motion by the end of the Cold War, it will transform the strategic landscape as well, creating a need for new structures to maintain stability and defuse tensions. ...

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4. Where is Myanmar Headed?

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pp. 14-19

In 1988, Myanmar abandoned the socialist path which, with its nationalisation and Burmanisation of the economy, had brought the country close to economic ruin. Since then, private enterprise has been encouraged, a liberal investment code established and there has been increase of trade, tourism and foreign investments. ...

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5. What Indonesian Stability Means to the ASEAN Region

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pp. 20-23

After the abortive pro-communist coup of 30 September 1965, the new political forces headed by General Suharto moved quickly to seek regional reconciliation. Confrontation against Malaysia and Singapore was formally ended in 1966 and ASEAN was established in 1967. ...

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6. Democratic Peace Theory and Asia: The Jury is Still Out

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pp. 24-27

The merits of democracy as a system of government are obvious to democrats. Even if its shortcomings seem more obvious to non-democrats, objective and fair minded democrats would readily acknowledge them. ...

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7. ASEAN’s Achievements are Endangered by Continuing Crisis

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pp. 28-30

As foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations start their annual meeting in Manila today, their organization is facing a number of challenges. The most formidable is the economic crisis battering the region. ...

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8. Surprising, Squabbling, Peaceful ASEAN

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pp. 31-34

Observers unacquainted with ASEAN ask if such public squabbling damages ASEAN. They are surprised when they find that the answer is: not much. Conceived in the throes of Cold War conflict, ASEAN has traditionally sought to avoid being held hostage to the bilateral quarrels of its members. ...

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9. Fast SARS Action Shows ASEAN Not Just a Talk Shop

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pp. 35-38

The star of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was dimmed in recent years by the Asian financial and economic crisis, the incorporation of the Indochina states and Myanmar as members, the political and economic problems of Indonesia, bilateral disputes, and diversion of foreign direct investment to China. ...

Part II: Age of Terrorism, War in Iraq

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10. The Changing Face of International Relations as America Combats Terrorism

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pp. 41-44

Firstly, as Mr Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek magazine has written, “a foreign policy of fiats and ultimatums will give way to one of negotiations and diplomacy”, dictated by the need to obtain the cooperation of other countries to hold together the international coalition against terror. ...

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11. There is Method to Howard’s Madness

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pp. 45-47

Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s remark that Australia would be prepared to launch pre-emptive strikes against terrorists in other countries has predictably stirred a hornet’s nest in Southeast Asia. Why did he make a remark which obviously was going to grate on Southeast Asian sensitivities? ...

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12. A Not So Happy New Year?

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pp. 48-51

As one year is about to end and another begin, the outward calm of this holiday season belies uncertainty and unease. Religion-inspired terrorists, who would rather destroy the modern world as we know it if they cannot change it to one of their liking, are on the offensive from Bali to Mombassa. ...

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13. Singapore’s Stand on Iraq: Clear and Forthright

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pp. 52-55

A friend asked me last week, before Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar’s 14 March statement in Parliament, why Singapore had not taken a stand on Iraq. When I said, “on this, silence may be golden”, he thought I was being facetious. ...

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14. Sept 11: Two Years On, Southeast Asia Breaks Terrorism’s Deadly Lock

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pp. 56-61

There have been some significant gains. The toppling of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan in the American-led military campaign was a clear plus. It meant radical groups could no longer send recruits for training in Afghanistan or use it as a sanctuary. ...

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15. US Bungling Makes Iraq a Problem for the World

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pp. 62-64

The political fall out from the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) may in the end prove to be the lesser of the headaches for the United States. The Bush Administration probably believed, when it went to war, that Saddam Hussein must have hidden his WMD, not an unreasonable assumption in view of the Iraqi leader’s character. ...

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16. Iraq is Not Like Vietnam — For Now

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pp. 65-68

Consider: Optimism among American official circles about the progress of the Vietnam war was shattered by the Vietcong uprising in South Vietnam in February 1968. The Tet (Lunar New Year) offensive was timed for an American presidential election year and, though widely regarded as a military failure, had the intended political effects. ...

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17. Losers and Winners in the Iraq War

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pp. 69-72

US standing in the world, especially in the Arab/Muslim world, has been damaged. Its policies in Iraq and the Middle East are perceived as unilateral and unwise, betraying poor understanding of the problems and an over-emphasis on military/security instruments. ...

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18. Is Bangladesh Waking Up to Danger of Islamic Militancy?

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pp. 73-76

Over the past few years there have been troubling reports about the growth of Islamic militancy in Bangladesh, which has received a lot of play in the press. For example, the grenade attacks against leaders of the main opposition party, the Awami League (AL), including one in January 2005 that killed former finance minister Shah Kibria, have been well publicized. ...

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19. Pakistan Faces a Gathering Storm

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pp. 77-80

Since 9/11 Pakistan has become so much a part of the global security grid that adverse developments there can send shock waves through the international system. Sadly, this proud and attractive country with much potential has become one of the main centres of international terrorism and extremism and has been drifting towards increased instability. ...

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20. Southeast Asia Succeeds in Keeping Terrorism at Bay

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pp. 81-84

In a recent survey of Al Qaeda, The Economist called America’s war on terror “inconclusive”. The terrorist threat, it said, will last many more years. It derives currently mostly from “ungoverned, undergoverned and ungovernable” areas of the Muslim world and the “virtual caliphate” of cyberspace. ...

Part III: The Big Boys of Asian Geopolitics

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21. China Needs to Act Like a Good Neighbour

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pp. 87-90

China needs to act as a model good neighbour to allay suspicions and build confidence. Yet to many Southeast Asians it seems to be doing the opposite in the South China Sea. The recent incidents involving China and the Philippines in the vicinity of the Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands are the latest manifestation of this. ...

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22. On Balance, America is Benign

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pp. 91-94

America has drawn much flak over the Iraq war. Many critics are men and women of honour. Yet some of the criticism makes the US appear a rogue state and a menace to world order. This is overdone. America’s role in the world and in the Middle East today must be viewed in proper perspective and balance. ...

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23. Resoluteness Alone Will Not Solve Bush’s Security Woes

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pp. 95-98

But resoluteness, while necessary, may not by itself be sufficient to make progress in Iraq and the war on terrorism. There was ample resoluteness during the first Bush term, yet the international security situation has worsened in some important respects in the past two years. ...

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24. India Has a Key Role in Asia’s Power Balance

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pp. 99-103

In the game of Asian power politics, India has been receiving increased attention of late, being wooed in turn by America, China and Japan. India was geopolitically boxed in South Asia for four decades, in part as a consequence of the Cold War when its alignment with the Soviet Union caused the US and China, with the help of Pakistan, to contain it within the sub-continent, ...

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25. China, Japan Must Meet and Talk More

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pp. 104-107

From the mid-1970s, after China and Japan re-established diplomatic relations, till the late 1980s bilateral relations were reasonably amicable. But Sino-Japanese rivalry emerged in the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War. The disappearance of the Soviet Union removed a common enemy. ...

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26. India’s Ascent: Rocky Path Ahead

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pp. 108-111

India’s rise as a great power could face more political and security challenges than is commonly appreciated. The South Asian region, with nuclear arsenals, is marked by deep seated inter-state enmities, political instability, religious extremism and terrorism. Indeed if terrorist groups were to acquire weapons of mass destruction India could be a prime target. ...

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27. America’s Security Strategy and the “Long War” on Terror

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pp. 112-116

It may sometimes be easier to fathom the foreign and security policy intentions of secretive states like China or even the Soviet Union of the Cold War than to figure out those of the United States. Power in Washington is dispersed between many agencies. ...

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28. A Weaker America Could Allow the Quiet Rise of China

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pp. 117-120

There is a decline in the clout of the United States in world affairs, especially in the Middle East. It is largely the result of the Iraq debacle, though other aspects of this US Administration’s policies have also contributed to this. ...

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29. ASEAN as a Geopolitical Player

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pp. 121-124

ASEAN is viewed variously as an organization for regional confidence building, economic cooperation, or just a talk shop, depending upon the knowledge and disposition of the beholder. But not many people outside elite circles think of it as a geopolitical player. Yet, ASEAN has such a role. ...

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30. China: A Powerhouse in Search of Grace

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pp. 125-127

Visiting Shanghai and neighbouring Jiangsu province, it is difficult to avoid the feeling that a titan is rising. The energy of the people and the infrastructure bear witness to China’s great strides forward. Communism did much damage, but it also accelerated the emancipation of women and provided free and compulsory education of nine years for both boys and girls. ...

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31. Security Treaty Signals Closer Canberra-Jakarta Ties

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pp. 128-131

In a joint declaration in 2005, Prime Minister John Howard and President SB Yudhoyono described the Australia- Indonesia relationship as “one of the most far reaching, high level interactions between two countries in the Asia- Pacific.” ...

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32. The Wagah Border: From Division to Bridge

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pp. 132-135

The residents of the city say there are only three places worth visiting in Amritsar: the Sikh Golden Temple, Jallianwalla Bagh where British Brigadier Dyer in 1919 massacred unarmed Indians — and the Wagah border. Indeed the flag-lowering ceremony at the end of each day on the India-Pakistan border at Wagah in Punjab has over the years become a tourist destination, ...

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33. Fix the Gaping Holes in India’s Security

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pp. 136-138

The scale and nature of the Mumbai terrorist attacks bring into sharp relief the failures of the Indian intelligence services. They either did not have prior information of the attacks or they did not follow up on leads. The central intelligence services are short of resources while the local police forces are less than effective in counter-terrorism work. ...

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34. Chiang Kai-shek’s Legacy Lives On in China

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pp. 139-141

A side trip from Shanghai recently took me to Xikou near the port city of Ningbo in Zhejiang province. An otherwise non-descript place in the countryside, its claim to fame rests on it being the birth-place of Chiang Kai-shek, who ruled China in the 1930s and 1940s. ...

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35. Asia-Pacific Security: The Danger of Being Complacent

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pp. 142-146

The Asia-Pacific region has enjoyed generally stable and peaceful relations between the major powers for over two decades. Sino-Japanese relations have improved, there is better US-China cooperation on a range of issues, and economic interdependence among the major powers has increased greatly. ...

Part IV: Remembrances of Conflicts Past

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36. Turning Point in the Vietnam War

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pp. 149-152

Forty years ago, on 31 January and 1 February 1968, Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces launched the Tet (Lunar New Year) offensive in cities and towns across South Vietnam. It was the first, and most dramatic, part of a three phase campaign. Fierce fighting raged in most of the provincial capitals as well as the national capital Saigon during early February. ...

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37. The Malayan Emergency: Of Plots, Plotters and Protagonists

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pp. 153-156

Sixty years ago this month, in June 1948, three British plantation managers near Sungei Siput in Perak were killed by insurgents of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). The killings marked the beginning of a violent communist insurrection in Malaya, which prompted Malaya’s British colonial rulers to declare a state of Emergency in the country. ...


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pp. 157-160


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pp. 161-171

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About the Author

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pp. 172

Daljit Singh is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore. He has published extensively on regional security issues. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9789814279727
Print-ISBN-13: 9789814279710

Page Count: 172
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1