By R. Sittamparam
KUALA LUMPUR - Asean must find ways to enhance the participation of the United States and Russia in the Asia-Pacific regional architecture, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday. "The US represents an integral part of the Asia-Pacific regional order. Washington will continue to exercise substantial economic, political and cultural influence in the foreseeable future."
"Russia's geography gives it a major stake in the affairs of the region. Moscow is earnestly intensifying its bilateral engagements, a development that has been warmly embraced by regional countries."
He said this in his keynote address to the 24th Asia-Pacific Roundtable, themed "Strengthening comprehensive and cooperative security in the Asia-Pacific" yesterday.
Present at the opening of the three-day roundtable session, organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis) Malaysia, was Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.
"The nations of Southeast Asia see the potential in our relationship with Russia and the US. This was why the recent Asean Summit in Hanoi resulted in the clearest expression of Southeast Asia's encouragement for Russia and the US to deepen their engagement in the evolving regional architecture," he said.
Najib told the roundtable participants that Malaysia and its Asean neighbours had always adopted a broad vision when assessing their strategic interests.
"That is why we place such importance in our relations with all the major stakeholders of the Asia-Pacific. We appreciate the significance of our relationship with our Asian neighbours -- China, India, Japan and South Korea.
"We also value our ties with Australia and New Zealand, which have played constructive roles in promoting regional economic integration.
"There is also scope for enhancing our relations with Europe. We welcome the opportunities to engage the countries of the European Union, whether collectively or singularly."
Najib said being a firm believer that openness and inclusiveness should be the guiding principles in efforts to consolidate the architecture of the region, he felt Asean needed to acknowledge the fact that the Asia-Pacific was a region where there was an intersection of interests of nations near and afar.
Stating that the Asia-Pacific Roundtable had been recognised as one of the premier security conferences in the region, he said it was important to have a platform where policymakers, scholars, business people and journalists could be brought together to discuss the security challenges in the region.
"Such events provide an informal and non-official channel for the exchange of opinions and perspectives, so that we can refine our understanding of each other's security and foreign policy priorities."
Najib added that as countries in the region emerged steadily from the global economic crisis onto a path of growth and stability, they must not simply take the comfortable path that would return them to the status quo.
"We must look ahead to prepare for the challenges that will define the coming decade and beyond."
-New Straits Times