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Pax Asiana

  • Malaysia is too small to take on giant powers like the US and China, but we are big enough to promote multiculturalism, multilateralism and multifaithism, the three pillars to support a new golden age of Pax Asiana.

By Datuk Wira Dr. Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff

Looking back at the fading era of Pax Americana, namely, the so-called peace enjoyed in the wake of the global dominance of the United States, it appears to be little more than propaganda from the pulpit that their position afforded them. The endless conflicts instigated by them suggest a different reality.

All countries strive to promote themselves, of course, and America is no different. Their narrative has always been that they are the best and biggest in everything there is. Even if that were true in their “golden age’ following World War II, it hasn’t been the case for a long time now. Whether in education, health care, infrastructure, or the arts, their dominance is on the decline.

For a long time, because of consistent American policy, regardless of which Presidential figurehead came and went, this messaging was maintained. But the Trump administration has definitively ended all that. The kimono is flapping in the wind and the underbelly of the beast is on full display. And it is real ugly!

Trump’s inability to stick to the script has demolished the moral high perch that the United States spoke down to the rest of the world from. Most American leaders bitterly resent this abasement, but in truth the self-scrutiny it will encourage in their society may stimulate a catharsis needed for its reinvigoration.

While Trump uses his remaining time in office occupied with his MAGA business, the time has never been better for Asia to assert its own identity and aspirations in a new “Pax Asiana” – an era of harmony and multilateralism independent of instruction from the West.

Many heads of state from Asia espoused this very idea at the UNGA last week, including our own Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir, who called for adversarial nations to use peaceful means, not violence and war, to resolve their differences. While he singled out Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya, he also applied this sentiment, somewhat controversially, to India and Pakistan over the tinderbox issue of Kashmir.

India’s unilateral revocation of Article 37 of its Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, is not only being contested in its own Supreme Court but drove Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to plead intervention by the UN and forewarned hapless consequences from the Indian action.

India’s Prime Minister ignored the matter entirely in his delivered remarks, treating it as an internal matter and a fait accompli – a done deal. Indians, though also somewhat split on the methods employed by the Indian government and the repercussions within both the Union and the people of Jammu Kashmir, largely applauded Narendra Modi’s strategy as one showing determination, confidence and poise.

However, this unequivocal contention belies fault lines along which South Asia’s neighbors are forced to align themselves, both sides exciting passionate reactions from not only the political leadership of each country but also its citizenry – such is the intensity of emotion surrounding this issue.

There are parallels with China that come to mind, with long-lasting fallout that still plagues their international relations with other Nations (though in this case China opted to join the Pakistani camp). Even referring to these matters is deemed provocative by China, and triggers punitive retaliation.

Therefore, Tun Mahathir’s calls for dialogue should be heeded in the spirit of Pax Asiana, as inducement from an elder statesman of the region calling for preemptive diplomacy over violent reciprocation. So far that has not been the case. Social media in India erupted with righteous umbrage, some even proposing to boycott Malaysia; whereas others are equally critical about his proposed Muslim alliance with the likes of Pakistan, long accused - albeit controversially - as being a state sponsor of terrorism.

However, it’s precisely at these times that calmer heads should prevail, and discourse should override distrust. Tun Dr Mahathir has often said that Malaysia is too small to take on giant powers like the US and China, so War is not an option for us, but we are still big enough to promote multiculturalism, multilateralism, and multifaithism, the three pillars needed to support a new golden age of Pax Asiana.

(Datuk Wira Dr. Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff is PPBM Supreme Council Member.)


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