June, 5, 2023
By Prof Samitha Hettige
Asia’s foremost defense summit is the Shangri la Dialogue held in Singapore. SL’s Galle dialogue is expected to go on same lines. Senior defense officials come there to debate region's security challenges & take fresh approaches together. A review of the past indicates that some members use it to teach others about rising China. In a world without the USSR & only Putin to fight in Europe, it’s natural for the old colonizers to be worried about China. Safeguarding one’s sovereignty & territorial integrity is a fundamental right enshrined in the UN Charter. It is interesting that most of those who play the blame game at the Shangri-La are the ones who acted against the UN charter on many occasions throughout history & even at present. China however, has sent over 50,000 peacekeepers to UN peacekeeping (2000 on duty at present) & is the largest troop contributor / permanent member of the UN Security Council (Ref UNDPKO).
The USA has the practice of imposing sanctions on many at their wish. SL’s Vasantha Karannagoda is one. When he was told he cannot enter USA, he stated that he never wanted to visit US but went there once on US invitation. The UK gave asylum to General Pinochet of Chili but US never sanctioned the Defense minister of UK. Saudi Arabia looked after Idi Amin but the Saudis prevented sanction friction with oil. The latest is Chinese State Councilor / Defense Minister Li Shangfu. The cause shown is weaponry dealings with Russia. So far most states in the world haven’t analyzed conflicts since WWII to act as the US. If so, thousands of US officials would have been sanctioned. If the aim of the dialogue is to come up with fresh win-win approaches, then the US should rethink its implementing strategy. While the US lead west is worried about Putin’s objections to having NATO in Ukraine, they are talking about a NATO liaison office in Tokyo. This seriously questions the commitment of NATO to the UN charter. Fortunately for the NATO, the voices of the people of Okinawa are not heard in any dialogue. Some question NATO’s right to influence in the security of Asia without any approval from the UN Security Council as it is by nature a regional organization operating in North Atlantic area.
If root cause analyses of all global conflicts are done, it will indicate money at the bottom. Japan wanted expanded markets & ended rebuilding Hiroshima & Nagasaki from scratch. Japanese car manufacturers were harassed in the US when the Toyotas beat US cars. The trend seemed to be continuing. Only new development is China’s magnetic open economy. Strategic business leaders avoid conflicts seeking win-win cooperation. American tycoon Elon Musk who was in China recently in a high profile visit is the best example. As per Musk China remains an important market for US investors. Those British business men who came to China when China was a closed economy are still known as “ice breakers”. Despite politics of fear, business men from the west have proved they go beyond. That is possible since China is ensuring safe environment, disciplined workforce & good returns on investments in short periods. That’s the lesson for SL.
A Chinese solider on duty in a UN peacekeeping mission has once said “ if people ask why going to such dangerous places to keep peace, please tell them someone must step forward to safeguard the fundamentals of human civilization." Investors will never come to a dangerous place. Musk visiting China is the best lesson for US & for SL as well. It will be good for countries to avoid 24x7 conflict provocative approaches so that people who try migrating will stay back contributing to their own economic development & global economic development.
(Views expressed are personal)