Najib Suggests Asian Nations Learn From One Another For Cohesion

BERNAMA - August 02, 2007 23:17 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, August 2 (Bernama) -- Asian nations can be in a better position to take on challenges if they learn more from one another, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said tonight.

At the end of the day, the real challenge for Asia was to find ways to strengthen itself as one cohesive region, he added.

"Malaysia is open and ready to share the lessons we have learned from those experiences so that others, especially our Asian counterparts, may benefit from them," he said at the opening of the Fifth International Convention of Asia Scholars ((CAS5) 2007 here.

"There are those who hold steadfastly to the view that Asia can never be strong as a united region because it is simply too diverse. The simple equation is that where there are too many differences, there can never be consensus, and where there is no consensus then there is no strength in unity.

"I am not in agreement with this logic as I choose to see the diversity in a more positive light. Because we are so different in our respective histories, our cultural make-up and our political evolution and because Asia is so vast, there is all that much more to learn from each other.

"I believe that Asian nations can be better positioned to take on whatever challenges that may lie beyond the horizon, if we learn more from each other," he said.

Najib said it was not to say that Asia should become an exclusionist grouping or bloc of one type or another but these were but a few of a host of interesting and important questions "we should seek answers to if we want to play a role in shaping the way forward for this incomparably varied region".

He said no single country could claim to have seen it all or to have gone through it all because, as was the case in human interactions, countries too could and should learn from the experiences of others, to emulate their positive steps and avoid their disastrous mistakes.

Najib said that looking at Asia today, there was no doubt that the leadership could be brought forth from among people and what was needed was a serious and collective effort by Asian countries towards this end, and more importantly, a willingness to move towards it.

"Whether Asia will succeed in doing so, or whether we will continue to remain a continent united on a map, but not quite in reality, remains to be seen. Of course only time will tell. But all of you, scholars of Asia, can contribute towards the outcome of this question, and to the other questions I raised earlier, through the body of your work," he said.

This one unity voice was vital, as Asia was the centre of global commerce and home to the world's two biggest rising economic powerhouses -- China and India -- which have become such gigantic players in the global economy that no participant of global business could afford to ignore them, he said.

Multinational corporations looked to China, India and the rest of Asia for their expansion, and Asian countries were competing with each other to welcome the deluge of western investors drawn to this continent by incomparably lower costs and rising market potential, he said.

"Will we see an erosion of Asian values and cultures as western ideals take a stronger hold over global communities? Or will we see a heightened manifestation of our own Asian values as we look inward to embrace our own identities in the face of a rapidly changing world?" he asked.

"As Asia continues to play an important role, and indeed determines the direction of the global economy, will it also balance the global power dynamics that is currently tilted to the west?" he added.

Najib said Malaysia had always aspired and endeavoured to be an exemplary multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation and to a large extent he believed that even the harshest critics would agree that this nation has been quite successful.

"Our experience thus far in nation building is something we are ever willing to share. We are pleased that many are intrigued to learn how Malaysia managed to keep the different ethnic groups united through wealth and power sharing; how we faced terrorism and communism head on and much more," he said.

Malaysia is open and ready to share the lessons we learned from those experiences so that others, especially our Asian counterparts, may benefit from them, he said.

"Much as we are willing to share, we are, - and have always been - willing to learn from others," he said.

"It is my hope that discussion and discourse during this convention will be focused, not only on the theoretical and the conceptual, but also on the strategic and action-oriented matters.

"Too many times such conventions have been held, mainly, to intellectualise and philosophise on the many challenges that we are faced with, but little effort is spent on collectively brainstorming strategies that should be adopted to forge new pathways, or new and innovative plans of action to suit these dynamic and volatile times," he said.