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Thursday, Sep 23, 2021
Outlook.com

One Step Forward

A closed-door air mars the ASEM's tentative debut in Bangkok

One Step Forward
One Step Forward
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
PERHAPS even the organisers had anticipated a bout of polemics at the first-ever summit of 10 Asian nations and the European Union—the Asia-Europe Meet (ASEM). After all, certain Asian countries like India had not been invited. Media access to information was strictly controlled. And on February 29, the summit-eve, European Commission Chairman Jacques Santer declared that "sensitive issues" wouldn't be discussed.

But contrary to the unspoken fears, the weekend summit (March 1-2) ended with general agreement in several areas of planned cooperation. On potentially divisive issues like human rights and Indonesia's 1975 annexation of former Portuguese colony East Timor, everyone agreed to disagree. The 26 leaders—heads of government or their representatives from the 15 European Union member-states, the seven ASEAN states (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), and the leaders of Japan, South Korea and China—stressed that the task at hand was to enhance cooperation and understanding, not discord.

In the run-up to the...

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