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14th APEC summit begins in Vietnam

APEC?s fight against terrorism is important and it cannot shy away from its role in fight against terrorism, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2006 10:58 IST
Arun Joshi

Today the 14th summit of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum has opened in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is building its economic prowess on the theme of one community, consistently since it was founded in 1989. Its foundation coincided with the last days of the Cold War.

It has come a long way. It has achieved much, and its challenges, too, have multiplied over the years and with the changing times.

Terrorism offers a great threat to the "one community" swan song of this economic cooperation group of 21 nation states. In this modern-day-world, everything has been  held hostage to fear of terrorism.

There is a need to lift that fear once and for all. Unless that fear is  tackled in effective manner, the basic goals and visions would not be achieved in the fullest strength. That challenge is there.

APEC’s fight against terrorism is important. This represents a vibrant block of the growing economy and it cannot shy away from its role in fight against terrorism.
Terrorists have had field day in the nation states of the region, particularly  Indonesia.

The United States is  grappling with terrorism threats day in and day  out and still far away from being a victor in the fight against terrorism.

All the goals that APEC has come to identify itself with complete economic liberalization, are good. The APEC has followed a steady course. It has overcome the challenges posed by the natural disasters, and marched ahead. Its resilience has paid off.

It also has a challenge to meet its energy requirements to keep its  economic engines moving  toward the goals that it has set for itself. But terrorism is a great threat that cannot be overlooked in any manner.

It will have to pool its resources, much in the same fashion, as it envisioned economic cooperation 17 years ago, to  keep the spooks of terrorism off its economic progress. For its economic progress is important to the world-  where inter-dependence  is the definition of progress. Days of isolation  are over.

This twenty-one nation economic cooperation  group understood the merits of marching with times in 1980s. That the economies could not be held hostage to the baggage of the past.

The cold war mindset of closed minds and political stand-offs, deepening suspicions had to be replaced with a new vision of progress and prosperity by walking together and dismantling the trade barriers and opening economies.

Asia-Pacific region nations had wider goals in sight. The economic cooperation  arising out of the  ground reality of the  interdependent economies had to embrace the whole world in it. 

The APEC despite occasional hiccups  has progressed and even the basket cases of the 1970s today are equal partners in the development. Vietnam is a shinning example  of that. It is economy is growing .

There can be no argument with President George Bush of the United States, when he stated while delivering a speech at Singapore University that the  region has progressed because of the APEC in the light of the vision statement  at Bogur, Indonesia in 1994. He also  pointed out to lessons that the APEC’s march with times and needs  has dellivered  since it came into being in 1989. 

Bush  said, "The remarkable economic growth that this region has achieved points to a clear lesson: The expansion of trade is the most certain path to lasting prosperity."

One of the most important  points in the vision statement of APEC  was a pledge to  approach the 21st century  with a  commitment to work  on the basis of equal partnership. The size and the population of the countries were not taken into account. What was taken into consideration that how to learn and perfect the art of treating  nations as equals.  That is  a clear path  to progress.

The 1993 vision statement of APEC read, "As we approach the twenty-first century, APEC needs to reinforce economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region on the basis on equal partnership, shared responsibility, mutual respect, common interest, and common benefit, with the objective of APEC leading the way in: strengthening the open multilateral trading system; enhancing trade and investment liberalization in the Asia-Pacific; and  intensifying Asia-Pacific development cooperation.”

APEC member economies - as the nations are described in the group - have  relentlessly pursued their original agenda. That pursuit has reflected continuity of thought and action.

The inevitable result is that there is a trust. The distrust  causes confusion. Doubts have  not been allowed to cloud the progress and the mutual relationship of equality. That was manifested amply in the theme of 13th APEC Economic Leaders meeting in Busan, Korea: "Towards One Community: Meet the Challenge, Make the Change."

The objective: To advance our common vision of achieving stability, security and prosperity for our peoples.

There was a  recall  of the “ importance of the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific.” There was a dedication  to the original pledge  of  ensuring  “a transparent and secure business environment in this region in order to lay a stepping stone towards  our vision.”

The member economies also confronted the challenges and  pledged  to  extend their “ utmost efforts to bridge the various gaps and differences existing in the region.

“As a result, APEC, as the single forum encompassing the Asia-Pacific region, has not only kept its past pledges but also has succeeded in presenting the future direction that APEC should be heading towards,” its  2005 declaration noted.

In 2006,  the economic leaders summit has been  based on the theme: ““Towards One Community: Creating New Opportunities for Shared Development”.  Time and again the APEC has reinforced the  theme of  one community. It is looking at unity in diversity.

This feeling has  facilitated progress of the region despite huge natural disasters  of unprecedented magnitude.  The December 26, 2004 tsunami that changed the description of the natural disasters for the world.

This was counted as the worst ever natural disaster  where high rising sea waves swallowed tens of thousands and  left millions others homeless and helpless.

Indonesia and Thailand were the worst affected nations. But still  the sense of  resilience  has prevailed and the region has not allowed its progress to be hindered  by the world’s worst natural disaster in the human memory.

This one community feeling has kept the things going in the Asia-Pacific region. The world has come to admire that. The world is also aware that the region’s energy needs are growing. 

Growing economies need energy. Without energy, there is a danger of the  growth getting stunted. Having come so far, none of the member economies would like to see themselves stuck because of the non-fulfillment of energy  needs. They have to find ways. That is a challenge President Bush has got an answer: “Harness the power of technology. Together, we must unleash the same spirit of innovation and enterprise that sparked the Asian economic revolution to spark a new revolution in new energy technologies.”

The Asia-Pacific region nations are also  having another major problem, like rest of the world: terrorism. It has  been a  target of the terrorist groups.  Terrorists have struck hard in  October 2002 in  Bali, Indonesia. The most populous Muslim nation has also experienced deadly terrorist attacks  in its capital, Jakarta. 

Terror threat is looming large over the region. The 9/11 took place in the United States, but the region has its own 9/11 haunting it and there is a fear of more such taking place.

That is the threat that APEC will have to deal with, not in  the sweeping manner  of the United States in launching  the so called war on terror, that has only multiplied the deaths within and outside America, but to devise ways that can offer it a  hope and promise against the growing  threat of terrorism. There too, the  mutual cooperation is as much a  necessity as  shaking hands firmly in economic cooperation.

Terrorists do not recognise boundaries. They want to have a free run. Nations too should have a  boundary-less fight against terrorism, for the sake of the region and the world. Economy and terrorism do not go together.

Arun Joshi is chief of Bureau of Hindustan Times in J&K and a scholar of trends of terrorism.

E-mail: a_joshi957@rediffmail.com