KUALA LUMPUR: Southeast Asian countries have charted the course for greater integration over the next 10 years with aims to be the primary force in shaping regional architecture and be more connected economically and socially, according to a draft document set to be adopted by the region’s leaders at a summit next month.
Leaders from the 10-member countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are expected to gather in Kuala Lumpur for their second summit this year in November after the first one in April.
Malaysia plays host at a crucial juncture in ASEAN developments as this year marks the deadline for the formal establishment of the ASEAN Community which entails closer integration through three pillars — political security, economy and socio-culture.
But as leaders toast to the symbolic establishment of ASEAN Community 2015 in November, they have already laid out a framework for “ASEAN Community Vision 2025” that the leaders will adopt in a document titled “Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together,” seen by Kyodo News.
In the broadly worded statement, the leaders said they recognize that the “rapidly changing geostrategic landscape continues to present both opportunities and challenges which require ASEAN to respond proactively in order to remain relevant as well as to maintain ASEAN centrality and role as the primary driving force in the evolving regional architecture.”
They spoke of peaceful resolution to disputes and to “enhance maritime security and maritime cooperation for peace and stability in the region and beyond, through ASEAN and ASEAN-led mechanism and adopt internationally accepted maritime conventions and principles.”
ASEAN centrality has often been put to test as recent challenges like the territorial disputes in the South China Sea have cast doubt on the grouping’s ability to offer a united stand on the issue when it involved two superpowers like China and the United States.
The world’s two largest economies are incidentally also ASEAN’s dialogue partners. Leaders from the two countries will join their ASEAN counterparts as well as leaders from Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia in the East Asia Summit that will be held on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in November.
On their vision for an economic community, the leaders pledged to enhance connectivity and innovation and to “foster a more systematic and coherent approach towards its external economic relations,” among others.
On the ASEAN socio-cultural community by 2025, the leaders aim to promote better quality of life, strengthen human rights and enhance environment protection.