Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 303

303 Arctic Yearbook 2015 their Southeast Asian counterparts expressing an ever-increasing interest in Arctic affairs. History is not proprietary, and the forthcoming discussions of ASEAN’s work – while far from exhaustive – will highlight the decisions and structures that hold so much promise for the Arctic states, Council, and broader region. Founding ASEAN In the early-1960s, the thought of a regional association of Southeast Asian states was anything but natural. With diverging political, economic, and cultural priorities, and a flat-lining South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), any sort of region-wide cooperation was thought to be unlikely. But by the mid-1960s, several factors changed the calculus. With the Vietnam War raging, the Cold War in full swing, and – most critically – a rising China casting an increasingly tall shadow into the region, the need for an informal regional organization was identified. In August 1967, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines established the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. As enunciated in the Bangkok Declaration, the first purpose of the association was to “accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavors in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of South-East Asian nations” (ASEAN 1967). With the establishment of “a weak subregional security regime whose members agreed not to pursue their disagreements by force, the five founding ASEAN states, if only for a brief moment, overcame the “Balkans of the East” portrayal of the region (Buzan et al. 2003: 135). Yet ASEAN’s future was anything but auspicious. Similar to the Arctic Council, ASEAN was established with certain foundational constraints that limited the scope of the young association’s actions. At its core, ASEAN aspired to be a conflict prevention organization – everything else, from economic development to human security concerns, would be a lower priority. But in ASEAN’s case, the association “had to avoid military cooperation in order not to be perceived as a front for the West, or a SEATO through the back door” (Acharya 2009: 55). As all international relations students learn, conflict prevention requires conflict (i.e. military) cooperation. Complicating matters were crosscutting cultural cleavages; far from a monolith, the region was not a naturally occurring cultural formation. The great challenge for ASEAN became integration; “Since cultural and political homogeneity could not serve as an adequate basis for regionalism, the latter had to be constructed through interaction” (Acharya 2009: 54). This too should strike a chord with Arctic scholars – in terms of politics, economy and culture, Russia has no more in common with the US than Singapore with Burma (Myanmar). Despite differences, ASEAN brought a region together. The regionalism challenge The regional glue that binds ASEAN is anything but natural, and many Southeast Asia scholars question whether the region is in fact distinct from the East Asian regional complex. Similar questions arise in the Arctic, a region long regarded as a minute sliver between American, European, and Asian spheres of influence. But the picture of the Arctic is changing, and as the region thaws and comes alive a broader discussion of regionalism is appropriate. While geography is an important factor in regionalism, other variables exist adding a level of complexity to any discussion. On the topic, Donald Lidow