Major Powers and the Security of Southeast Asia

Udai Bhanu Singh, Research Fellow, IDSA


The security of Southeast Asia has often been held hostage to the power politics of the major powers. Whether it was the colonial-imperialist era or the period of the Cold War the major powers sketched the drawing and left it to the regional powers to fill in the colours on the canvas. Is that really the case in the current post-Cold War period? For one, are there not new contenders to major power status? Traditionally, the status of the two superpowers was unsurpassed. Now Russia, a successor state to the Soviet Union, is at best an emergent major power. This has led some to believe that it is really a unipolar world, perhaps because they find the power of the United States so overwhelming. For the purposes of this paper the term 'Major Powers' is used in a relative, not an absolute sense and includes both established and emergent powers: the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and India.

In this scenario of uncertainty the major powers seek to play a role so that they may control the outcome. The expectations that with the end of the Cold War, frictions among nations would be reduced were belied. Though often characterised as peaceful, the post-Cold War period is marked by the emergence of new uncertainties. The uncertainties are not strictly militaristic in nature; the insecurity, which threatens, encompasses all arenas—including economic, social and environmental. These uncertainties were to have wide-ranging ramifications. While the threat of US withdrawal from the region (or at any rate, the reduction in American presence), the North Korean situation, the tension in the South China Sea, and the unstable regimes (as in Cambodia) contributed to the uncertainty, the economic prosperity presupposed a more stable situation. The trend of many states of South East Asia opting for sophisticated arms was, to an extent, symptomatic of this uncertainty.1 The other was to devise an alternative security framework, which would be less dependent on Great Power patronage and broad-based enough to provide the requisite balance of power. As conventional differences among nations traceable to the Cold War polarisation subsided, new frictions arose over issues as diverse as human rights, copyright, intellectual property rights, rights of the sea, etc.

Because of its historical circumstances the growth of nationalism was coterminous with communism in parts of the Asia-Pacific. Because of heterogeneity and diversity of the region the two superpowers respectively were unable to develop the kind of multilateral security structures as in Europe. Besides, the polarisation of Europe was much more clear-cut than in Asia-Pacific. The US itself was wary of multilateral security institutions in the initial post-Cold War period lest it lose its influence in the region. The US sought to reinforce its bilateral defence arrangements with countries of the region.But the need for a security forum became evident with the fall of the Soviet Union and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) came into being.

Despite the apparent bonhomie and general agreement, there is an undercurrent of disaffection when it comes to the question of human rights and democracy; an urge for self-assertion, independence and self-expression keeps asserting itself every now and then. This is reflected in instruments such as ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The security concerns of the Southeast Asian States have been heightened during this phase, which is marked by cooperative engagement replacing earlier policies.

Factors Determining Major Power Involvement in the Region

Politico-historical Factors: The security outlook of the region was shaped by their past experience and the current developments. First, their colonial experience engendered in the newly independent nations the desire to preserve their sovereignty and promote peace. Second, in the absence of an overarching colonial power they had themselves to shoulder the burden of securing the region from great power competition and rivalry.

During the colonial-imperialist era much of Southeast Asia was under Western domination. This led to the birth of two contrary possibilities—one was the inclusion of Western powers in the affairs of this region because past linkages facilitated this process (the birth of the Commonwealth was the manifestation of such a desire). The other diametrically opposite trend was the desire to prevent interference by outside powers in this region.

Structural Factors: A series of developments at the international level created a favourable condition for the rise of ARF. The two superpowers had traditionally been major political factors in the region and their decline in a region, which had witnessed a prolonged phase of economic growth created possibilities for the evolution of a new security order. Collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War led the US to consider withdrawing its dominant military presence from the region. This opened up the possibilities for creation of new multilateral security arrangements without upsetting the existing US bilateral security arrangements and forward deployment strategy.

Rediscovering a New Asian Identity: This became possible after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was reflected, for instance in the economic changes that a centrally planned State like Vietnam witnessed. It was at the Vietnamese Communist Party's Sixth Party Congress in December 1986 that the plan for deregulation or doi moi (renovation) was enunciated.2 This has meant a shift from a centrally planned economy to a market oriented one in which the Vietnamese businesses can cooperate with outsiders. First, it got a boost after Vietnam withdrew its troops from Cambodia.3 Second, in February 1994 the US lifted its 19-year- old trade embargo against Vietnam and President Clinton announced the opening of a liaison office in Hanoi.4 With these developments the process of building bridges of friendship became possible. It resulted in Vietnam's admission to Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) and later to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). After it expressed its desire to join the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) other ASEAN members agreed to give Vietnam a grace period till 2003 to lower tariffs.

Need to Keep all the Major Powers Engaged in the Region: The perceived US withdrawal from the region (especially after the closure of the Philippine bases) made them interested in finding an indigenous solution to their security requirements, but one which would take into confidence the relevant outside powers. They needed to keep the US engaged and interested in the region so that the ambitions of the other upcoming powers like Japan and China could be kept in check. An assertive China (with its military modernisation and naval expansion), an ascendant (though 'power shy') Japan, a 'withered Russia' tended to impact on the security of the wider Asia Pacific region which necessitated the setting up of ARF. It was important to have China engage in dialogue at a multilateral forum rather than only at a bilateral level. This would enhance the leverages in the hands of the regional countries.

Economic Factors: The growing economic linkages and the rising significance of the Asia-Pacific in the global economy made ASEAN opt for a stabilising factor to promote that growth.

Defence-related Factors: Greater economic prosperity in the ASEAN region has meant also an increased allocation of the budget for defence and a rapid modernisation of the military.5 This has led to a feeling of increased regional insecurity. Besides, the ASEAN states realising that their security could not be divorced from the security of the rest of the Asia-Pacific decided they must lead in the formation of such a security mechanism. Instead of allowing other powers like Australia, Canada or Russia to implement their proposals, ASEAN decided to seize the opportunity.6 However, military factors per se do not exercise an overwhelming role in such decisions.7 Security has become an extended concept. There often are several other security related objectives like dealing with international terrorism, maritime disputes, sea piracy, narcotics trafficking, spread of AIDS, ecology (environmental pollution) and information warfare.

Diplomatic Acumen and Experience: Through several decades of diplomatic experience of regional interaction and of economic prosperity, the ASEAN states had imbibed the self-confidence necessary for setting up such a multilateral mechanism. Now they felt confident that they could graduate to a forum where they could discuss security related issues.

Major Power Objectives in Southeast Asia

The US Objectives in the Asia Pacific

The US has a web of economic and security interests in the Asia Pacific. Clinton had said that US must remain an Asia Pacific power and disengagement was not an option.

Economic interests: It seeks to protect its commercial interests in the region, including its trade and investment. It has a favourable balance of trade with all the economies except China and Japan. Seven ASEAN Members (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) exported goods worth $39.26 billion to the US and imported goods worth $72.84 billion according to the provisional trade figures for 1998 and the US maintained a fair surplus with all of them.8 ASEAN is USA's fourth largest trading partner (after Canada, Japan and Mexico). US has increasing investments in the region, especially in Australia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, , Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand..

Political:.It seeks to play the role of dominant balancer in the Asia-Pacific. It often uses human rights and democracy as points to pressure governments. The US enforced limited economic sanctions on Myanmar. It has differences with Malaysia's Mahathir and Myanmar's SPDC. With Vietnam relations improved. During the Cold War the chief security threat to the United States' interests was thought to emanate from the Soviet Union. In the changed post-Soviet and post-Cold War scenario the focus has shifted to new threats which include: China, the volatility of the Korean peninsula and a reassertive Japan. There has been renewed talk of a Strategic Triangle (Russia, China, India). Due to domestic reasons, the United States would like to reduce its commitment abroad. Both the 'body-bag syndrome' and budgetary constraints motivated the US to encourage the development of alternative security arrangement in the Asia Pacific region. The US has a 100,000 strong strategic presence in East Asia. It was forced to readjust its East Asia strategy following the withdrawal of its forces from the Subic Bay naval base in the Philippines in November 1992. The American watchwords are stability, prosperity and democracy.

The US seeks to engage China in order to limit it economically and militarily. The countries of East Asia also seek to limit the growth of China. It would not like to ignore China's 1.2 billion population. It has security agreements with Australia and South Korea and a close defence arrangement with Japan. In 1998 the US revived its security agreement with the Philippines sans the bases. The US has been assured additional facilities at Singapore's Changi naval base.

Russian Objectives in Southeast Asia

Russia's economic involvement with ASEAN has been low, with trade accounting for less than $I billion in 1990. While the former Soviet Union used to have a negative balance of trade, the present scenario is no better with exports yet to pick up; Russian investment in ASEAN countries is also lagging behind. Yet Russia showed interest in projects in ASEAN countries: such as the construction of the underground system in Bangkok; construction of transregional railway line from Thailand to Laos, Vietnam and China; natural gas pipelines and airports in Malaysia besides construction of electric power stations in many of the ASEAN countries. But, ASEAN accounted for only 3 per cent in Russia's overall trade in mid-1990s.The economic crisis in Southeast Asia also negatively impacted on ASEAN's ties with Russia.

The lack of economic interaction between Russia and ASEAN in the economic arena has its reflection in the political sphere. Russian intelligentsia does not appear to support active involvement in Southeast Asia.

Japanese Objectives in Southeast Asia

Washington-Tokyo relations have seen many swings and in 1992 relations had seriously dipped. It may be recalled that US had sought to rein in Japan after its defeat in the World War. It was Gen. McArthur's influence which led to the inclusion of Article 9 anti-war clause in the Japanese Constitution. Tokyo has vast economic and military interests in SEA: it seeks to protect access to markets and safeguard its sea lines of communications. Tokyo does not see itself as placing full reliance on US for its security, it has been led to conclude that in order to protect its own vast interests in SEA it would have to upgrade its own capabilities. This was reflected in a 1994 Japanese report which recommended building up autonomous capability in order to meet just such an eventuality. Japan is heading towards enhanced military role in Asia. Its legislature recently cleared the way for its military to operate outside Japan. In the revised guidelines governing Tokyo-Washington defence relations set by it, Japan is expected to play a more active role in Asia when called upon. Japan is the northern anchor of US military presence in Asia.

India's Objectives in Southeast Asia

l Growing Chinese potential: ASEAN fear of China's potential as a naval threat in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean is shared by India. Chinese intentions in Myanmar too are not very clear.

l Need to protect sea lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean: Much of India's trade is conducted through the seas and hence it is important that movement of its ships is secure and unimpeded.

l Implementing Confidence Building Measures: The need to strengthen the Indian navy could be balanced by reassuring its eastern neighbours of its intentions. India could provide Indonesian and Malaysian naval vessels servicing facilities in its ports. It could hold more naval exercises with individual ASEAN countries. India could provide training facilities for Malaysian fighter pilots and technicians.

l To build on the existing cultural and historical ties: There is also a large Indian community residing in the Asia Pacific region. This expatriate Indian community can act as a "bridge" between India and these nations.

l Growing potential for economic ties: Our 'Look East' policy was stalled temporarily perhaps because of our preoccupations with nuclear (NPT and then CTBT) issues and with Pakistan. Foreign Direct Investment had reduced. It is not possible to base our prosperity on economic interaction with SAARC as intra-South Asian trade accounts for only a miniscule proportion of our world trade. We need to look East and develop linkages with ASEAN, AFTA and enter APEC at the earliest. It is being suggested that the future lies in triangular relations between China-Japan-India. This is because China is an important economic player in the Asia Pacific and our linking up would hold enormous possibilities for us. India would benefit by joining APEC. In fact India became an outside member of two workshops of APEC: Science and Technology; and Energy. If the moratorium on new membership had not been imposed, India would have become a member of APEC.

These countries lie on important trade routes with the rest of the world. Recent developments have created conditions which are conducive to a greater coordination of policies of India and ASEAN members. India has legitimate interests: because of its large dimension, its maritime boundaries which are demarcated with those of ASEAN, its resources need to be protected such as fisheries, offshore oil and gas and undersea mineral resources. India is also a pioneer investor under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and has legitimate interests in the Indian Ocean.

India's economic liberalisation and adoption of 'Look East' policy has led to diversification and expansion of India's relations with the Asia Pacific. It has created new possibilities for trade and investment. There were significant economic reasons for the coming together of India and ASEAN. Total bilateral trade with ASEAN States during 1997-98 was US$5.98 billion. Thailand was the largest investing country in the Indian economy during 1993 ($3 billion). Singapore showed interest in technological ties, especially after Premier Goh's visit as Chief Guest on January 26, 1994. The (then) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, conveyed to members of the APEC, India's interest in participating in its activities. Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong during his visit to India in December 1999 said: "Vietnam is interested in Indian technology and industrial know how for implementing our modernisation policies." Vietnam is liberalising its own economy and there is greater scope for cooperating.

India has traditionally relied on the Arab countries and the Persian Gulf for its oil requirements. But the discovery of considerable sources of oil in East Asia has opened the possibility of alternative suppliers. The need to balance our relations with Pakistan and the sizable Muslim population within the country may have had something to do with the close ties with these states.

India had an opportunity to play an important role in economic diplomacy. It could seek to oppose the linkage sought to be established between trade and non-trade related issues like labour standards and, human rights. It could seek, like former President of Indonesia, Suharto, to oppose the introduction of such issues at international fora like the World Trade Organization meetings. This was possible at the PMC.

However, there is a danger in overstressing the economic dimension of India's relationship with ASEAN. A more appropriate approach would be the one taken by India's External Affairs Minister in his Jakarta address. It has been argued that it would amount to downgrading our own importance if we limit our role to economic imperatives rather than adopting a policy which impacts on the peace and security of the region.

Extensive Interaction Between India and ASEAN: There has been growing interaction both at the civil and military levels and at the bilateral and multilateral levels. India consciously attempted to strengthen relations with the Asia Pacific, particularly ASEAN. This gave hope that India might be able to get membership of APEC and ASEM.

Stability through Engaging the Major Powers: How Southeast Asia Perceives the Major Powers

How ASEAN Perceives the US

The American and ASEAN objectives converge on most issues yet they have a uniquely Southeast Asian flavour. The US is a Dialogue Partner of the ASEAN, an important participant in the annual ministerial meeting with the Foreign Ministers and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

l On the positive side—and there is a lot more positivity in this relationship--the US is seen as an important stabiliser in the region. It is seen as the "most benign"hegemon in the region.9

l The downside to this relationship however is that ASEAN has begun to see with an increasing degree of suspicion US's attempt to impose its own political (idea of democracy), economic (through the WTO and other international economic institutions) and human rights agenda on the rest of the world.

Subtle and not so subtle differences have arisen between ASEAN and the US over the issue of the leadership and nature of the ARF. Despite their strong pro-American bias and convergence of their interests with the American policy they want it ASEAN-led and retain its unique 'ASEAN way'. In that sense they would not like to play second fiddle to any major power—not even the USA.

Jusuf Wanandi says: "the region needs a healthy balance of power and this will be based on the US military presence, with the US-Japan alliance as its chief vehicle. To create a sense of security and community, a balance of power through bilateral alliances needs to be anchored in a multilateral arrangement. That is why regional institutions like APEC and ARF are so important." However, he believes that the Major Powers should lead the region on the basis of a consensus on basic policies. He includes the US, China and Japan among the major powers and Russia and India as the potential major powers.10 Many of the ASEAN countries enjoyed close links with the United States for a long period of time but now they are seeking to diversify their relations. This is being done to retain greater freedom of action and a general flexibility in approach. In this changed situation India, as also China have their own respective roles to play.

The majority of ASEAN States want to keep the United States engaged in the region and the ARF has served as a good instrument to do so. Initially it was the superpower rivalry, which determined the US presence. In the late 1980s there was talk of American withdrawal on the grounds that the Soviet threat had diminished following military cutbacks, announcement of Soviet withdrawal from Cam Ranh Bay and the collapse of the Soviet Union itself in 1991. Second, domestically in the US there was greater public pressure for greater burden sharing. Third, there had been public opposition in the Philippines to renewal of lease to American bases and US bases had to be closed in November 1992 and troops reduced to the tune of about 20 percent since 1990. But, the truth is that Southeast Asia continues to remain geographically and strategically relevant to the US. Hence Manila ratified the Visiting Forces Agreement. Washington has also augmented its military-security cooperation with Singapore and Thailand. The new concept which Admiral Dennis Cutler Blair, Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Command has "a network of security and military relationships - bilateral and multilateral." On the one hand Washington wants to reassure its Southeast Asian allies that it continues to remain committed, on the other it does not wish to unnecessarily antagonise China and make it feel threatened. It has changed gear from containment of China to engagment of China. However, it remains to be seen how restrained US would be following the revelations in the Cox report apropos what has been referred to as "the greatest spy story of the century".

How ASEAN Perceives China

On the positive side ASEAN admires China's economic reforms, and potential for economic competitiveness on a global scale. China has all along laid stress on economic growth and military modernisation. It believes in constructive engagement of China and seeks to tie up China in economic activity such as trade and investment. These economic linkages are to form the basis of a durable ASEAN-China relationship. China was the major player to be invited at the ASEAN Informal Summit and its economic leverage has gone up. It lent support to the Thai currency. This shows the economic clout that China wields and the role it can play. Singapore's largest investments are in China (not Malaysia). China and ASEAN economic relations have intensified.

On the negative side ASEAN regards China as an abiding potential security threat. But—and this is important—this is normally never publicly articulated. This is for the simple reason that it would not like to provoke it in any way. This circumspect behaviour can be understood in the light of Sino-US rapprochement in the 1970s. Secondly, the Chinese weltanschaung and its history of dominance in the region only reinforce Southeast Asian perceptions. It has a history of support to communist insurgencies in ASEAN States and at one time regarded much of SEA as its suzerain territory. Thirdly, it is a potential threat due to its links with overseas Chinese. Fourthly, in the post Cold War period China has become more assertive with its military modernisation; intimation of an American withdrawal and an impression gaining ground that Vietnam can no longer serve as a balancer to China. While economic linkages constrain China, Chinese assertiveness has been fairly evident as for instance in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

China has the potential to disturb the stability of the region. Recent developments have been cause for concern. In 1992 China passed its law on Territorial Waters and Contiguous Areas. It is known to have seized Mischief Reef as early as July 1994. Earlier, China fought with Vietnam over Paracel and Spratly islands. It had skirmishes with the Philippine navy in the South China Sea. Some of the ASEAN states have a territorial dispute with China over the oil rich Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Then there was the China-Taiwan tension of 1996. China then engaged in provocative military exercises (including the launching of missiles) at the time of Taiwanese elections in a bid to influence the outcome. This prompted the US to send two aircraft carriers to the area.

How successful has ARF's policy of Constructive Engagement been? What did Constructive Engagement actually entail? From ARF's point of view the advantages have not been inconsiderable. For one thing they have succeeded in shifting contentious issues like the South China Sea from the bilateral plane into the multilateral arena. This should be seen in the light of ASEAN issuing the ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea. The ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea (which calls for the peaceful settlement of disputes ) has the approval of all claimants. The Great Powers have, in a sense reposed their trust in the ARF (under ASEAN leadership) so that the overbearing influence of China or Japan can be avoided. ASEAN wanted resolution of the South China Sea problem without the involvement of extra-regional powers. So, bilateral approaches such as the ASEAN-China Forum, were resorted to. Second, this has facilitated military-to-military contacts between ASEAN and China. Third, it has encouraged China to issue Defence White Paper.

The changes that have occurred in Vietnam's security policy in the post-Cold War era can be understood from a neo-realist perspective. The post-Cold War era has created new opportunities and challenges for Vietnam. New opportunities have opened up as Vietnam is incorporated in the larger Asia-Pacific community entering the new millenium. The new opportunities also include the new way in which the rest of ASEAN is looking at Vietnam. It has great expectations from Vietnam as it views its role vis-à-vis China. It shares a border with China, and has actually been to war with that country more than once. It also contests Chinese claims in the South China Sea.

Vietnam and China reached a new level in confidence building when they cleared all the landmines along their border. This is said to be the largest such campaign in the world. With this the border trade along the Yunnan Province and Guangxi increased by 4bn Yuan.11

Vietnam's relations with China had begun to improve after Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accord in October 1991 and the People's Republic of China decided to suspend military aid to the Khmer Rouge.12 But China continues to be a source of concern for Vietnam. Differences on the question of sovereignty over the South China Sea islands persist. China passed a controversial territorial waters law in 1992 by which it claimed virtually the entire South China Sea. Vietnam has maintained that: "At present, Vietnam is facing problems of territorial sovereignty, the boundaries of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf which should be settled with the neighbouring countries. The maritime space and islands of Vietnam in the East Sea, including the Paracels and the Spratlys, are an integral part of the nation,.They lie within the nation's territorial boundaries that have held for a millenium now; the EEZ and continental shelf claims of Vietnam are recognised by international conventions, in particular by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)." China's expansionism which received an impetus after Britain handed back Hong Kong and the imminent reunification with Taiwan. This problem is compounded by the volatility of the Korean peninsula.

Hanoi perhaps has apprehended the Chinese desire to emerge as a major regional power. This desire to improve relations with neighbours is dictated by its need for a peaceful environment as it increases its real strength. This explains the Chinese Communist Party congress decision by which it seeks to settle disputes with neighbouring countries through peaceful negotiations and failing that to just set them aside. China is improving relations with Russia, Japan and with India. A realistic appraisal of the great disparity in physical dimension has led Vietnam to a greater acceptance of the need to normalise relations with the big neighbour alongside. From Hanoi's perspective, "…Vietnam is ready to negotiate peacefully for the settlement of the historical issues as well as the newly arising ones."13

How ASEAN Perceives Japan

On the positive side ASEAN has great admiration for Japanese economic performance. It also recognises its importance as a valuable source of capital and technology.

On the negative side, however are historical memories of the Japanese expansionist past. There is a feeling that unless Japan is tied down by external pressures it could pose a potential threat. A possible Japanese military revival brings back unpleasant memories to the Southeast Asians of a period in their history about six decades old.

The USA wants to keep an eye on developments in the Korean peninsula, the region also holds out a nuclear threat. It would like to reduce as many uncertainties and remain in control.

How Southeast Asia Perceives Russia

A decade ago it was unthinkable to visualise Russian involvement in Southeast Asia to a level that has now become possible. It is an important potential actor in shaping the realignment of forces and the emergence of security structures in the region.It is not perceived as a potential threat by most regional powers. Rather it is perceived as a viable counterbalance to other major powers.ASEAN looks to Russia for its advanced technological know-how and highly qualified (but orphaned) scientific manpower.

Defence cooperation: The end of the Cold War, the collapse of a reliable ally in the Soviet Union brought about major changes not only in Vietnam's own policy (witness its withdrawal of troops from Cambodia) but also the way in which others viewed that nation (resulting in acceptance by ASEAN of Vietnam as the first Communist Member).

As a successor to the Soviet Union, Russia can develop the Vietnamese Cam Ranh naval base to mutual advantage. Vietnam views Russia as a "guarantor of peace and stability" in the regional and international context. Its Defence Minister Pham Van Tra said this while on an official visit to Russia in July 1999.14 He and his Russian counterpart also signed a military and military technical cooperation agreement on June 2, 1999. This would enable Vietnamese military specialists to be trained by Russia (already over 13,000 such specialists have been trained).15

Russia is also seen as a valuable source of defence purchases.16 ASEAN Members- Indonesia and the Philippines had to defer their defence acquisitions because of the economic crisis: this only goes to prove that in the long term stability of Southeast Asia lies Russia's true interest.17

Table: Combat Aircraft Transfers from Russia to Southeast Asian Countries

Year Recepient System #Sold/Status

Indonesia 12 Su-30; 8 Mi-17- Deal Cancelled

1B multipurpose


1995 Malaysia MiG-29 8

1995 Vietnam Su-27 6

1997 Vietnam Su-27 2

How Southeast Asia Perceives India

The fact that India is the second most populous nation in the world, the fifth largest economy and a civilisation of 5,000 years standing, could not have been ignored for long. The ARF covers over 3 billion people, of which India constitutes over 900 million and ASEAN over 400 million. India and ASEAN together occupy strategically located territories. It includes states with ASEAN's population of over 400 million and the ARF's over 3 billion. The growing strategic and economic importance of the Asia-Pacific region is an obvious factor. India's reduced defence expenditure, the slowing naval modernisation, and the holding of joint naval exercises have served to reassure countries to its East, including ASEAN States and Australia. Similar exercises with the Singapore, Indonesia, and Thai Navies have taken place. Any alarmist views about India's "expansionist designs" or "bluewater Navy" have been, by and large, dispelled.

Major Powers: Attitude towards Multilateral Security Cooperation in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia enters the new millenium with the advantage that ideological differences no longer fragment the region between Indochina and the rest. While this may be a happy convergence of ASEAN diligence and historical circumstance, other developments within the region were not quite so fortuitous. There were factors, which did not make for a more secure Southeast Asia. Instability generated by factors such as economic crisis, ethnic unrest and political turmoil has been responsible for new uncertainties. While intra-regional cooperation seems to have taken a turn for the better, it is the domestic scenario which is most troubling to the Southeast Asian nations. As conventional differences among nations traceable to the Cold War polarisation subsided, new frictions arose over issues as diverse as human rights, copyright, intellectual property rights, rights of the sea etc. Not ideological factors (as Eisenhower feared) but economic factors created the domino effect which engulfed all aspects of the affected nations' activity. This has created new security challenges and hence the need for enhanced multilateral security cooperation. The extent of support, which each major power is willing to render to multilateral security institutions, is directly dependent on its own security objectives in the region and its expectations.

Often in pursuit of their realist objectives major powers seek to subvert or control multilateral security institutions. The more powerful a state the more keenly interested it would be in controlling both the direction and speed in which a multilateral security forum is headed. Sowing the seeds of self-introspection and raising doubts about its own intrinsic worth and fundamental values on which it has been built up does this. Replacing the security institution's agenda with a new one may also do it; by controlling its membership and its leadership; by controlling the pace at which the given organisation should proceed. And when all else fails, initiate parallel organisation/s, which serve the same function but are more pliable and subserve your interest more closely. The major powers do not adopt an exclusively realist approach as it is well understood that even realism does not succeed without an adequate dose of liberal theology. Most states tend to follow a more complex mix.

The US Approach to Multilateral Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific

The Clinton Administration finally dropped its objections to multilateral security dialogue in the Asia Pacific. The US has come to acknowledge that multilateral dialogue must supplement its links at the bilateral level. The US welcomed the formation of ARF. Though the Secretary of State Warren Christopher himself was unable to attend the inaugural meeting (due to preoccupation with 'Middle East' negotiations) his juniors Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott; Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Winston Lord; and Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs Joan Spero did.18 The US wanted the ARF to play a pro-active role in tackling conflict situations.

The US reassured that it intended to continue its forward military presence in the region.19The United States would like the ARF to play a greater security role in the region. It wants ARF to acquire military teeth. Differences with ASEAN have led the US to encourage the development of alternative security forums in the region like the track –II Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific. (CSCAP). Similarly, the US attempted to give the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum a security role, but did not succeed.

There is a competition for the leadership of ARF. ASEAN wants to remain in leadership so that it can utilise the ARF for balancing one great power against another. This explains the ASEAN keenness in including China within the ARF and for wanting to keep US engaged in the region. Just as USA follows the policy of engagement of China, the ASEAN States follow the policy of engaging US and the rest of the major powers. In this sense, ASEAN too, has learnt some of its lessons from the major powers.

The US would like to remain in a position where they can shape all the major decisions taken by ARF. In case that is not possible it would like to turn to bilateral alliances with individual countries in the region and to help in the formation of multilateral forums which are more in tune with their world outlook. Another option that has been openly voiced (by no less than former US Defence Secretary William Perry) is that a security dimension be added to APEC, a primarily economic organisation but dominated by the US. It would not like the movement of its forces to be subjected to controls in any part of the world. A report by the US Congressional Research Service says that a "problem would arise if East Asian governments used the ASEAN Regional Forum and other future regional security consultative organizations to restrain the United States from acting on certain security issues…"

It is important that the leadership of the ARF remains in ASEAN hands-not only in name but also in real terms.

The Chinese Approach to Multilateral Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific

Is China opposed to the multilateral approach? The multilateral interaction could be at the level of the formal track or the informal track. China does not appear to favour the multilateralisation of disputes such as those relating to the South China Sea.

China was a hesitant player in the ARF because it felt that its membership and agenda was dominated by the West and secondly because China was new to the game of such a multilateral security forum.20 China's dilemma on how to deal with multilateral security cooperation in SEA became apparent in the double-speak it had to resort to. At the Second ARF held at Brunei, its Foreign Minister Qian Qichen made a conciliatory gesture when he agreed to accept the Law of the Sea (LOS) as a basis for negotiation, and to discuss the SCS dispute multilaterally with ASEAN. But, his spokesman Shen Guofeng continued to reiterate China's claim to the SCS and give precedence to bilateral (rather than multilateral) mode of negotiations. Perhaps China was unwilling to bear the diplomatic cost of ignoring the ARF and going ahead with its plans in the South China Sea.

The Japanese Approach to Multilateral Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific

Japan is the most important economy in Asia Pacific. Not only is the world wary of a Japanese role in leading the formation of a security body, perhaps Japan itself was hesitant to initiate the process. Asia-Pacific still has unpleasant memories of Japan's attempts at establishing the 'Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere.'

Russian Approach to Multilateral Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific

Russian approach to multilateral security cooperation is marked by its participation in the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) contributing to understanding with Southeast Asia. Second, it is marked by Russia becoming ASEAN's full dialogue partner. Third, is the fact of Russia joining the ARF as one of the founding members.

Indian Approach to Multilateral Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific

l ARF Membership: When ARF was formed in July 1994 it was said that India made an unsuccessful bid at membership. New Delhi denied this but said it had shown a 'natural' interest in it. Later, India became the 7th dialogue partner and the 20th member, eligible to participate for the first time in ARF. This was a fortuitous development and one must join it with a measure of self-confidence. There is no reason for New Delhi to be concerned that the forum could sometimes be used to criticise its policy or bring in issues like Kashmir before it.

l CSCAP Associate Membership: The story of India's interactions at the Track Two level provided a suitable platform for dialogue with Southeast Asia. The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) has been an Associate Member of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) since December 1994. The "Associate" status is conditioned not by India's relative importance but by the fact that all definitions of 'Asia-Pacific region' have ended at the Myanmar-India border- a throwback to the coincidental linkage to the limits of Japanese military advance in World War II. The CSCAP itself was founded in June 1993. The agenda was shaped when India was not represented in the first two meetings and to that extent the Indian participants were largely presented with a fait accompli. IDSA has been attending Standing Committee and Working Group meetings and discussions are already moving in a direction that converges with India's core interests. Some of the issues discussed at the Track Two forums are close to New Delhi's heart. For instance, the emphasis on greater transparency and the call for a White Paper on defence is a positive one in the light of the fact that reliable information on the defence expenditure, for instance, of countries like China, Vietnam and Myanmar, is lacking. However, the 9th CSCAP Steering Committee Meeting which was held in Kuala Lumpur on May 30-31, 1998 came out with a very strong statement condemning Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests.

Nuclear Issue

While reference in the ARF Chairman's statement in 1998 on the nuclear arms test in May had led India to regretfully dissociate itself from it, the statement issued after the Singapore (ARF) session was considered by Mr Jaswant Singh as a vindication of India's constructive approach on non-proliferation and disarmament. It took note of the calls for "all States to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to accede to the Nuclear Non-Prolifereation Treaty as soon as possible". ARF wanted all states to sign and ratify the CTBT and accede to the NPT as soon as possible. But it also urged the P-5 countries to make "further efforts towards achieving the ultimate objective of eliminating nuclear weapons."

It called on the Nuclear Weapon States to "make further efforts towards achieving the ultimate objective of eliminating nuclear weapons". The ARF called on the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to begin on priority basis concluding the negotiations for banning the production of fissile material meant explicitly for making atomic weapons. It called upon "all States to exercise restraint in the development, testing and export of ballistic missiles and other delivery means" employed in deployment and use of WMD. India also renewed its offer at the ARF on July 26 to sign the protocol to the Treaty on SEA as a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. India's assurance of "no first use" needs to be well articulated and it should be conveyed that we actually mean it. How do non-NWS members of ARF look at our "no first use" assurance? This should carry conviction if we use diplomacy effectively. Then, even though all the ASEAN States are signatories to the NPT/CTBT New Delhi has not done yet – and need not do so. Again, while all the Southeast Asian countries have signed the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone treaty, the United States (like the other P-5 countries) is reluctant to sign the Protocol to the Treaty.

Confidence Building and Conflict Reduction

There is a view that the security forum in Southeast Asia should play a pro-active role. This has created differences among the major powers themselves. The ARF Concept Paper mentions three stages: Confidence Building Measures, Preventive Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution. A close study of the ARF members' response reveals there are differences on how they interpret the implementation of these phases. One view is that the three phases were meant to be implemented sequentially, not simultaneously. Another view is that CBMs and PD must progress together. However, PD does imply voluntarism. It is possible only when parties concerned agree.

l Chinese View

The fear of Preventive Diplomacy becoming coercive diplomacy has made countries like China uncomfortable. Some of them have expressed reservations vis-à-vis PD. They suggest that the best PD would be enhanced CBM in the Asia Pacific region ; given the strategic perceptions of the members it would be a kind of threat which would have a negative impact on peace in the region. They also suggest that the pace of ARF is not as important as the national interest of the members concerned. As proof that China is not against PD it is pointed out that China has agreed at bilateral and multilateral forums that it would not use force to settle the South China Sea issue. It is in fact taking regional responsibility seriously, especially in connection with Southeast Asia's economic crisis. That Preventive Diplomacy does not imply the use of force and interference in the internal affairs of states perhaps needs spelling out by the ARF.

l American View

The American view is that there is a danger in being overenthusiastic about PD in as much that Beijing may feel excessively pressured especially since it goes against the Panchsheel principle (of non-interference in the internal affairs). However, on the other hand if ARF did not do anything meaningful in preventive security it would become irrelevant in the future. To fix the 'pace' problem, there is need for more frequent meetings.

Since ideological differences no longer divide the Southeast Asian region and the whole of SEA is now within ASEAN's ambit the time may be ripe to consider cooperation on defence matters on a multilateral plane, which had hitherto been confined to bilateral or at best trilateral level. But ASEAN is constrained not to sign a military pact because of the unique situation it finds itself in which is very different from that of Europe. It would invite hostility of those powers whose cooperation is required for the prosperity of this region. It has been therefore suggested that ASEAN could cooperate in such areas of defence as surveillance of sea lanes.

Economic Security

The growing economic linkages and the rising significance of the Asia-Pacific in the global economy made ASEAN opt for a stabilising factor to promote that growth. Because of economic reasons, ASEAN states had as much of an interest in having a security mechanism in place as did outside powers. Major investors and trade partners needed security guarantees for their investment in the region; ASEAN states too had to be reassured that their regional interests were protected. The ASEAN states relied on outside markets as much as they did on foreign investments. They had to guard against their own vulnerabilities. As ASEAN economies are so dependent on trade, it became imperative for them to ensure that movement of goods was free and unimpeded. Greater economic prosperity in the ASEAN region has meant also an increased allocation of the budget for defence and a rapid modernisation of the military. This has led to a feeling of increased regional insecurity.

The strategic impact of the economic crisis had its bearing on Southeast Asia's relations with the major powers. The economic crisis altered the way ASEAN looked at security. Security began to be looked at from a holistic perspective. Since the military modernisation process underway in Southeast Asia was put on hold, the arms procurement from the major powers too was adversely affected. The defence budgets of Southeast Asian countries were curtailed. This required putting on hold previously concluded arms procurement deals, reduction in military exercises and training programmes with the major powers. Now financial constraint has managed to achieve what the arms control advocates were unable to accomplish. Secondly, it is a source of concern for the major arms manufacturers. It has increased the competition among American, European and Russian arms manufacturers. It is also troubling to the Pentagon which has in the past been able to keep its arms acquisition costs low due to the economies of scale which it could assure American weapons manufacturers. Pentagon spends about $45 billion on weapons procurement and it is also responsible for controlling arms exports. Of a total of $14 billion of American arms exports Asia accounts for only about $3 billion to $4 billion but it is the fastest growing market. But, while ASEAN military modernisation suffered a setback China continues with it. Besides, it must be remembered that though Japan spends only 1 percent of GDP it is still a military power because its GDP itself is considerable. Besides, an increase in the frequency of internal disturbances and illegal immigration (consequent to the start of the economic crisis) would divert the armed forces to internal security duties. These additional responsibilities endanger their operational capability.

Malaysian Premier Mahathir put the blame on the West, and pointed to the negative role played by currency speculators. Dr Mahathir labelled currency traders 'International criminals' who were bent upon destroying emerging economies. When US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was attending the 4th ARF in Kuala Lumpur in July 1997 Dr. Mahathir made a verbal attack on American financier George Soros saying that Western powers were making unreasonable demands on human rights. An ASEAN communique signed by the foreign ministers on July 25, 1997 accused Western speculators of "well-coordinated efforts to destabilize ASEAN currencies for self-serving purposes."


China's economic leverage following the economic crisis actually increased, especially after it lent support to the Thai currency. This has the potential to strengthen China while ASEAN is still under the weather. While the economic crisis has left Southeast Asia bruised, China's military modernisation, role in Myanmar, seeking a route to the Indian Ocean continues apace. This will continue to be a cause for concern for much of Southeast Asia and so the ASEAN countries may find it advantageous to coordinate their policies with other countries like India. In fact China could be said to have strategically gained from this crisis. A shift in arms trade is expected to take place: Chinese arms exports market will open up as it would provide arms at a cheaper price.

It provided China an opportunity to grab a leadership role just as it gave Japan a similar opportunity. China, by stoically refraining from devaluing the yuan once again managed for itself a leverage in international relations and earned for itself a position of influence. Bangkok Bank is virtually a Chinese bank (with all Chinese directors). At the Jiang-Clinton Summit greater deference was shown to China's position. Countries out of sheer necessity may start deferring to China. Second, China's promise not to devalue its currency gave it a leverage/clout in the international arena. It can demand civil nuclear technology from the West now.


The American interest in the security of the region is likely to grow if only to offset its trade deficit. The Crisis drastically reduced Asia's capacity to buy American goods whether aircraft or farm products. The US sought to convert the crisis into an opportunity. By providing assistance during the crisis it sought to increase its influence and credibility in the region. The US used its influence over the IMF to good effect. Wherever the IMF team went it was followed by the US Defence Secretary. The US is trying to renew links with the military and is keen on keeping track of the role of the military in each state of the region and updating itself on the likely regimes in the post-crisis period. US relations with the Philippines, Singapore Thailand and Australia will be further strengthened.

In SEA too there are two contrary trends: one favours the growing involvement of the US in the region to resolve the crisis. The other is a 'nationalist backlash' to the increasing US role. There is a feeling in some sections that the economic hardship that they are currently experiencing is due to the interference in their system by foreign powers.


The expectations from the world's second most powerful economy were high. Japan missed the bus so far as taking a leadership role in setting right the economic crisis was concerned. It adopted a "weak and vaccilating approach" to the economic crisis. Besides, Southeast Asia harbours other resentments against Japan including some unsavoury historical memories. Meanwhile China asked Japan to check the yen's slide. There were fears that a sliding yen could start off another round of economic instability in Asia and a fresh round of currency devaluations.


India volunteered to help the ASEAN countries with a package of measures to overcome the crisis as India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. It was only appropriate for New Delhi to declare its trust in the resilience of the SEA economy and to strengthen its 'Look East Policy', with focus on SEA.. This is India's chance of gaining friends and influencing nations—to our East. While SEA and Australia no longer entertain the kind of apprehensions regarding Indian naval expansion they had in the 1980s our peaceful intentions can be underscored by a strengthening of Confidence Building Measures. This could take various forms.

The India-ASEAN economic partnership needs to be sustained as the true test of friendship is in a crisis. "If it is true that East Asia is experiencing a meltdown, then ours [SEA-India] must be a friendship of the strongest kind, for it is a friendship forged in fire." India has accorded significant place to economic security in its strategic planning. One of the six important areas to be covered by the National Security Council was financial security. India escaped serious harm in 1990-91 because of the bold economic measures it then took. India's total bilateral trade with ASEAN States fell marginally from US$5.99 billion in 1996-97 to US$5.98 billion in 1997-98 because of the currency decline and a contraction in imports from India.

Had Japan's proposal for an Asian stabilisation fund been taken up and an Asian Monetary Fund set up in time, it is possible that a deterioration in the situation could have been controlled. China and ADB feel it was a serious idea.. The great powers should have come out in support of certain core values like currency stability and discouraged the trend of competitive devaluation and market-based exchange rates.

Whether China was responsible in some way for the economic crisis is not so important, but Chinese actions are impinging on the region and so they are important for India. Many of the ASEAN countries enjoyed close links with the United States for a long period of time but now they are seeking to diversify their relations. This is being done to retain greater freedom of action and a general flexibility in approach. In this changed situation India, as also China have their own respective roles to play.

Information Warfare

For instance, the media blitz on the economic crisis, by eroding confidence has also been responsible for aggravating the situation. Information warfare has touched new heights since the time of Goebbels. Malaysian Special Functions Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin said the economic crisis was a crisis of confidence, which was largely a matter of perception which in turn was based on information made available by the media. Having accepted the IMF and World Bank guidelines, and the media and rating agencies' prescriptions on full convertibility, the governments are quite powerless to control capital outflow.

Ethnic Issues

Major powers were involved in the process of destabilisation which occurred in Southeast Asian countries in at least two ways:

(i) Where the ethnic community having links with the major power was targeted by groups who resented their success and wealth: As if Southeast Asia was not beset by enough problems of its own the problem of ethnic population of atleast one major power became the centre of controversy yet again. The economic crisis in East Asia not surprisingly has been accompanied by ethnic strife in which the Chinese community became the target. This was unfortunate on two counts: first, at the domestic level the socio-economic structure was adversely affected as the Chinese traders became the internal enemies and were demonised. China has shown commendable restraint in not reacting to the attacks against ethnic Chinese in Indonesia which witnessed the worst kind of mob violence against some communities.

(ii) The affected Southeast Asian countries' insecurity was compounded by the fact that they were dependent on a power (China) for support, whose ethnic community was being persecuted: It threatened to sour relations with China at a time when they really needed that power's support in overcoming the ill effects of the economic crisis. This meant that for aid and for dissuading China from devaluing its currency it had to rely on its goodwill.

Prescription for New Delhi

Our objectives need to be clearly defined. Only then will we be able to clearly state the points of convergence or divergence with the major powers and/or ASEAN. However, it is important that in our eagerness to display solidarity with either ASEAN or the major powers we do not attach ourselves to a cause or course of action which, on balance does not really serve our own interest.

Points of Convergence with the Major Powers

1. Unimpeded movement on the high seas: For the sake of our trade (most of the goods being transported by sea) it is crucial to ensure the security of sea lanes, straits and passages. We have to ensure that there are no choke points: Malacca Strait is no longer a choke point of course, but our access to the East is still important. Similarly, checking piracy on the high seas is as important to India as to the major powers.

2. Role of Vietnam: Vietnam is a minimal counterbalance against China. Vietnam continues to be the most powerful military country in ASEAN. India has an abiding interest in Vietnam.

3. Supporting security dialogue both at the official and the non governmental levels: The Post-Ministerial Conference and the ARF both provide a unique opportunity for India to interact with the major powers who have a bearing on the security of the region. Similarly, the CSCAP and other forums should be of importance to India because both the major powers and ASEAN have developed a sophisticated network of informal diplomacy from which India has a lot to learn.

Points of Divergence with the Major Powers

We need to identify those issues, which may be irksome to ASEAN, but they may have been forced to suffer them silently. It may require appropriate action. If considered desirable, joint action should be taken in the form of diplomatic coordination and declaratory statements at appropriate fora.

Non interference in internal affairs: human rights and democracy This may require the individual ASEAN members to devise ways and means to prevent undue intervention by extraregional powers in their domestic affairs while at the same time increasing intra-ASEAN cooperation. This cooperation may relate to strengthening political, economic and social institutions and structures.

Major powers tend to question the hitherto accepted unwritten ASEAN principle of non-interference in internal affairs (which they consider an integral part of their "Asian way"). Within ASEAN itself some members (like Thailand and the Philippines) have been won over to this viewpoint. They have put forward the idea of 'flexible engagement' or "constructive intervention" in each other's affairs. Whether it is the affairs of Cambodia, Indonesia (East Timor) or Myanmar there is a greater tendency to influence the trend of events in these countries. The aim is often to question the human rights track record of these states. In such a situation it makes greater sense for these countries to explain themselves at a forum like the ARF which is dominated by countries of the region which are more or less similarly placed and hence better able to empathise with them rather than the more powerful states. In addition the threat of interference in internal affairs of less powerful states appears to have increased following NATO's changed doctrine extending its reach for purposes of intervention.

Democracy: Since any major economic or social upheaval is often accompanied by a demand for political change it affords a good opportunity for an interested major power to fish in troubled waters. External powers can fish in troubled waters whenever there is internal instability. It is interesting that Indonesian President Sukarno had been close to China and at the time Suharto came to power, he did so with the help of the United States. Again when Indonesian forces had taken over East Timor they had done so with the full knowledge of the Americans. This has been accompanied by the intensification of the struggle in East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya. According to one view the decline of authoritarian structures will continue apace in East Asia in the aftermath of the economic crisis. In Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi tried to intensify the pro-democracy movement. The SLORC/SPDC was quite keen on emulating the Indonesian ABRI example of dwifungsi (dual function) and it was expected that the armed forces would be accorded a constitutional role in the country's polity once the new Constitution is framed. But with the dramatic changes in Indonesia the Yangon regime may have to change track. The developments in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia are sooner or later going to have their echo in Myanmar.

Apropos the conundrum whether ARF is the right forum to discuss this or that subject it is important not to be too sensitive to criticism. It is only natural that ARF would have to come out with some statement. It is better to be present and be able to present our point of view. Regarding foreign military presence, the ASEAN position was that it did make the request that military presence should continue. India would like to reduce or eliminate it.


The major powers will continue to seek a role in Southeast Asia, if not directly then by proxy. ASEAN too will seek to assert its own identity but that would depend on its ability to deal with the domestic political, economic and social upheavals with which it is currently coping. ASEAN has taken up the challenge of reduction in US forces in the region by accepting some security responsibilities itself. The leadership has been quick to sense the change in the regional situation. Its willingness to include former adversaries (like Vietnam) within the organisation and to engage in dialogue countries with which it may have differences, only shows its adaptability and flexibility. Secondly, the ARF has chosen to progress incrementally by first promoting confidence building measures, then development of preventive diplomacy mechanisms and finally the development of conflict resolution mechanisms. Thirdly, the unwillingness of ASEAN to hand over the security agenda to another forum such as the APEC shows not only its farsightedness but also steadfast quality. Fourthly, the growing self-confidence of ASEAN as a regional organisation whose members have witnessed swift economic progress and who are willing to cooperate among themselves, is reflected in the discussions within ARF. Its tremendous adaptability and willingness to involve members representing diverse cultural, ethnic, religious and historical backgrounds in security dialogue has contributed greatly to resilience in a region not previously accustomed to such cooperative endeavour. The resilience so fostered over a period of time could play an important part in overcoming the problems encountered in a period of transition. But, even as it progresses as a forum for dialogue, the possibility of ideological or principled differences among members cannot be ruled out.

Identification of Possible Areas of Cooperation with the Major Powers: Certain issues animate ASEAN States and the major powers to an almost equal degree. Some issues which affect their security interest and on which they could cooperate:

l Security of sea lanes, straits and passages

l Search and rescue (already discussed in CSCAP)

l Disaster relief

l Confidence Building

l Curbing Drugs and narco trafficking

ARF would have to find new ways to tackle the problems of terrorism and drug trafficking which could be traced to the economic meltdown. The rise of terrorist activities as regional governments found themselves unable to focus their attention on terrorist activities on their borders because of their preoccupations at home. This area is one of the three drug growing areas of the world. Myanmar, which is not affected by the economic crisis, has been ostracised by the West for its human rights record. But on the drug control front cooperation must continue. When neighbouring countries are in an economic crisis, the trade in drugs and small arms becomes all the more compelling and profitable. That is the time when strict monitoring and control acquires relevance.



1. See for details, Udai Bhanu Singh, "Growth of Military Power in South-East Asia", Asian Strategic Review 1994-1995, (IDSA: New Delhi, 1995).

2. Certain individuals such as General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party Nguyen Van Linh, played a leading role in initiating these developments. He was nicknamed Gorbachev of South East Asia. See, Zain Amri, "Post Cambodia Vietnam: Some Economic Considerations", Asian Defence Journal, no. 5, 1994, pp. 45-49.

3. For details see, Dorothy R. Avery, "Vietnam in 1992: Win Some, Lose Some", Asian Survey, vol. 33, no. 1, January 1993, pp. 71-72, and Douglas Pike, "Vietnam in 1993: Uncertainty Closes In," Asian Survey, vol. 34, no. 1, January 1994, pp. 65-66.

4. George Esper, "Clinton lifts 19-year trade embargo on Vietnam," Pioneer, February 5, 1994. Also refer, Michael Elliot, "Exorcising the Ghosts," Newsweek, February 14, 1994, pp. 14-15, and Thomas W. Lippman, "Senate Votes to Free Vietnam Trade", Guardian Weekly, February 6, 1994, p. 17.

5. See n. 1.

6. James Shinn, ed., Weaving the Net: Conditional engagement with China, (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1996) p. 229.

7. Wilfried A. Herrmann, "Security in Southeast Asia", in William M. Carpenter and David G. Wiencek, eds. Asian Security Handbook: An Assessment of Political Security Issues in the Asia Pacific Region (New York: 1996).

8. V. Jayanth, "American involvement in East Asia", Hindu, March 23, 1999.

9. Gennady Chufrin, ed., Russia and Asia: The Emerging Security Agenda, (New York: Oxford University Press, for Sipri, 1999).

10. Ibid.

11. SWB FE/3612, G/3, August 13, 1999.

12. For details, Udai Bhanu Singh, "Recent Trends in Sino-Vietnamese Relations", Strategic Analysis, May 1996, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 303-315.

13. Ibid.

14. SWB FE/3579, B/3, July 6, 1999.

15. SWB FE/3578, B/5, July 5, 1999.

16. Malaysia purchased in 1995 18 Mikoyan MiG-29s air superiority fighters while Indonesia decided in 1997 to buy 12 Su-30 fighters 8 Mi-17 helicopters. Philippines and Thailand too showed interest in Russian defence equipment.

17. Thomas W. Zarzecki has argued that the deluge of advanced conventional weaponry that was expected to issue from the former Soviet Union has turned out to be more of a "paper tiger" than a reality. According to him the Post-Soviet Union era was characterised by political, economic and technological constraints on weapons transfers from Russia. See, Thomas W. Zarzecki, "Are Arms Transfers from the Former Soviet Union a Security Threat?: The Case of Combat Aircraft." The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, vol. 12, March 1999. For the economic constraints which the economic crisis imposed on arms transfers from Russia (and other major powers) refer, Udai Bhanu Singh, "Economic Crisis in East Asia", Asian Strategic Review 1997-98, (New Delhi: 1998).

18. Indonesia Times, July 26, 1994.

19. Ibid.

20. Rizal Sukma, "ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum: Should "The Driver" be Replaced?", Indonesia Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 3, 1999, p. 239.