ASEAN refers to a bloc of nations which have collectively formed a regional grouping in South East Asia. ASEAN stands for The Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Formed in the late 1960s, the regional forum aimed to promote and foster better economic relations in the region. It also aimed to ensure the stability of the region by positive and friendly economic, diplomatic, and political policies. Currently ASEAN is one of the most powerful economic regional blocs with a combined GDP of nine hundred billion dollars. This paper analyzes the external and internal factors which have assisted the regional bloc in becoming one of the most successful in the world.
The late 1960s was a time period of decolonization as many countries like Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia became independent (Narine 22). The process of developing nations had been chaotic and disordered with newly independent states vulnerable to external and internal chaos. Each state desired to achieve economic prosperity while ensuring that ideologies like communism would not prevail over their political systems. The result was the creation of ASEAN in the late 1960s. By the 1990s, more member states were added while other countries were given observer status.
Numerous internal factors were responsible for the success of ASEAN as a regional bloc. The leaders of the member states pledged to a policy of neutrality and impartiality with respect to the relations between them. The regional bloc also adopted the principle of non violence and lack of confrontation against each member states. One of the greatest achievements of ASEAN has been to create a sense of identity with the region amongst the member states. This is remarkable because of the diverse culture, history, ethnicity, racial groups, and linguistic divisions which are prevalent in the country (Narine 29). Countries like Singapore and Brunei resented and feared the influence of powerful states like Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia had desires and aspirations for becoming the regional superpower because of its resources, huge size, and large population. ASEAN however succeeded in bypassing these individual desires and aspirations by fostering and creating a sense of regional identity amongst the member states. Individual states like Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore have achieved impressive economic growth rates because of their focus on exports, high savings rate, investments in human capital, transfer of technology, and economic strategy that focused on industrialization (Than 56).
Several external factors have also assisted in the performance of ASEAN which has included the huge investments made by foreign companies. Foreign direct investment was one of the leading external factors that helped to foster economic growth and prosperity in the region. The lack of inter state conflicts also pushed for the reason for stimulating growth and a policy of non interference (Than 62). The United States and European countries invested in the infrastructure and industries of ASEAN countries which also helped to drive economic prosperity and success.
ASEAN continues to face numerous challenges as they move into the twenty first century. The regional bloc needs to prioritize its objectives in the light of changing political, economic, and diplomatic conditions. This will help to ensure the success of the regional bloc which has been propelling and driving the member states to prosperity and success for the past four decades.
Narine, Shaun . Explaining ASEAN . Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002.
Than, Mya . ASEAN Enlargement . Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2001.