Regionalism in Southeast Asia: To Foster The Political Will

Regionalism in Southeast Asia: To Foster The Political Will

Political rhetoric, no matter how incipient, has always had a way in shaping the reality at hand. Regionalism exists in the interstices of nationalism and imperialism. If the political leaders in Southeast Asia were to choose nationalism, then the excesses of the nationalist rhetoric, would doom the region to perpetual war. This was all the more the case with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. The asymmetric nature of Singapore and its larger neighbors alone would consign the city state to destruction and oblivion.

But, as everyone knows, the two did not gang up on Singapore. In a sense, the two could not see eye-to-eye during the tenure of President Sukarno and Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, manifesting finally in the Konfrontasi (the confrontation) in the mid 1960s that marred the relations of the two countries. Nor could the ex colonies of the Dutch and British be in favor of imperialism too; especially in favoring one Cold War bloc versus the other. Thus, regionalism, became the "middle way," to allowing the ambers of nationalism to cool, and to dulling the sharp edges of Cold War effrontery. The results were a series of regionalist experimentations, of which the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) is now considered the most successful. Nicholas Tarling, a fellow of the New Zealand Asia Institute, did an excellent job of explaining why ASEAN succeeded, while others failed; and how ASEAN has and will always be an exercise of sheer political will. This is the will, not necessarily, of the people, but the leaders. What is less certain if the politicians themselves were influenced by the nativist wishes of the people to allow the borders to be more malleable, and less restrictive.