What is ASEAN?
  * Many of the countries of Southeast Asia who had newly achieved their independence in the post- World War Two era were still in the embryonic stage of development. These countries feared that the whole of Southeast Asia would be swallowed up by communism as a result of the domino effect. This is why ASEAN was formed in 1967, consisting of five non-communist countries (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines) as a sort of a bulwark against communism.

  * Its formation was to a large extent a response to a number of grave threats which were seriously threatening the security and peace of the region at that time.

  * It then came up with an ambitious idea to safeguard the security of the region — neutralization. Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) pronounce the principles of non-interference and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

  * Economic integration was given a boost in 1992 with the creation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), and security took a centre stage with the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1994.

  * One initiative taken was to expand the membership to include all the 10 states of Southeast Asia irrespective of their political ideologies. Its biggest success was the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in China.   But it is also facing formidable difficulties and challenges.

  1. The new Cabinet is discussing Singapore’s policy towards ASEAN. Would you, the senior diplomat they turn to for advice, recommend a policy emphasizing ASEAN integration and unity or Singapore’s freedom of action? Think in terms of economic and security issues.
  * Our fundamental choice of recommendation will be on the “Policy emphasizing ASEAN integration and unity”.

  * But the recommendation is situational as the economic and security issues of Singapore don’t share the same ground on achieving the integrated and united ASEAN. Therefore we will discuss our...