14 February 2017
Reflecting on the power of words, the great German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.” In international diplomacy, particularly here in Asia, words do matter. And they matter a lot, especially if the topic at hand concerns sovereignty claims and territorial integrity.
In diplomacy, words are a gauge of the political will, internal coherence, and principles of sovereign states. This is precisely why seasoned diplomats and negotiators spend days, if not years, debating on the exact wording of treaties, agreements, resolutions, and press releases by their respective governments and organizations.
Five decades into its conception, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) isn’t only short on action, but it is increasingly – and alarmingly – also short on words. Last year, during Laos’ chairmanship of the regional body, there wasn’t even a mention of the Philippines’ landmark arbitration case against China.
… Lamenting the “illusion” of ASEAN centrality, Singaporean diplomat Barry Desker has rightfully pointed out the glaring lack of cohesion and unity among regional states, primarily due to how the consensus-based decision-making principle has been hijacked by external powers, who “shape the positions of ASEAN members on regional issues such as the competing maritime claims in the South China Sea.”
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 16/02/2017