This issue celebrates the great intentions of ASEAN, the Association of SE Asian Nations, who went from rival neighbours to close allies working together to seek peace and the opportunity to trade with the world from a stronger position as a compact group of nations. While rivalries certainly still exist and of course competition does sharpen the senses, the whole concept of cooperation is based on the old “single breakable twig versus the unbreakable bunch” concept, and this is sometimes forgotten in the frenzy for independence and “freedom”. I am not sure if lofty political ambitions are always achieved as planned but the fact that there are clear mutual objectives is always a good thing. Well done ASEAN!
So where does that leave the UK and its quest to leave the EU? Frankly, I really don’t know! And my bet is the British public didn’t know either when they voted to leave. They thought they were protecting themselves from a tide of unstoppable, unwanted immigrants from not just Europe but all over the world, but have ended up probably losing the very valuable Europeans that sustain many vital parts of the economy, and keeping the less skilled, less fortunate arrivals who have nowhere to go, and are a huge cost to the British tax payer. Karma indeed!
Do we feel the value of ASEAN cooperation in our everyday dealings here in Jakarta? Possibly not, but it is certainly better to have friends surrounding you than enemies. And it facilitates ease of access, ease of trade, brings in tourists and allows us to travel to the fabulous ASEAN countries through good airlinks. There are very few downsides to cooperation, and if there was a bit more thought put into it, there could be some very good upsides, which we in Indonesia have yet to take advantage of. Here are some examples! Singapore has no floods and is very good at infrastructure; Thailand is a world leader in tourism; Malaysia has developed its hi-tech corridor Cyber Jaya - and many more examples are out there. There is a lot we could learn: preserving heritage sites, promoting national cuisine, building world class airports, among many other things. We should learn how to really work together!
So let us celebrate the 50 years of ASEAN, mourn the end of a united Europe and learn that one plus one can really mean three if we honestly work together. Don’t you agree?