Dr. Victor Sumsky, the Director of the ASEAN Centre in MGIMO University of Moscow. Source: Mikhael Tsyganov
Russia & India Report: What are the recent developments in Asia-Pacific, presently acknowledged to be the most important region in the world on account of the coming APEC Summit?
Dr. Victor Sumsky: Among the latest news referring to the forthcoming APEC summit is the report that the Russian representatives in the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) have presented a list of priorities recommended to the Summit leaders. On that list are the ideas related to the promotion of food security, improvements in transportation and logistics, promotion of green economy and the improvement in technology transfers.
One could say, firstly, that this is an important instance where the PPP or Private-Public Partnership can mature as it is understood in the Russian context. What is even more important is that you can see a degree of experts' input in the composition of this list.
Secondly, while it obviously reflects Russia's national interests as the APEC Chair, it has also received several positive reactions from other APEC members. This means there's a degree of similarity between Russian national aspirations and expectations of the international business community.
And finally, if one takes this set of initiatives as a whole, he would see that it is basically focused on improvement of all sorts of linkages or what might be called connectivity between Russia as a participant in the Asia Pacific integration processes and her partners in that region.
In fact, the term 'connectivity' has become quite popular in the economic and political discourse of East Asia after the October 2010 ASEAN came forward with a Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity: a set of ideas intended to increase and facilitate linkages between its members. So, the fact that Russia came forward with this kind of initiatives means that our country is starting to think and act very much in line with the rest of Asia-Pacific, which is especially important on the eve of the Russian chairmanship of the APEC summit. In fact, all these propositions are actually made within the context of this chairmanship.
Russia & India Report: Well, this is really good news. And are the rest equally good?
Dr. Victor Sumsky: Talking about developments in Asia Pacific as a whole one can't help but pay attention to ASEAN simply because this regional group is now acknowledged by its partners as occupying a central place in what was once called a new emerging architecture of security and cooperation in Asia-Pacific. And in processes like this it is very important to maintain a sufficient degree of cohesion within the Association itself.
What was somewhat disturbing last week was the fact that for the first time in the history of ASEAN ministerial conferences, its foreign ministers in the meeting at Phnom Penh have failed to produce a final statement—a communiqué. Of course, the reason for that was the situation in the South China Sea, perceptions of which vary from country to a country.
Now the good news is that after a series of quick bilateral meetings between the Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa and his colleagues in several ASEAN capitals, they have managed to produce a kind of joint statement. This statement, however, came later than the meeting itself. As such, some sort of agreement and consensus within ASEAN seems to be restored.
That's certainly a positive signal. As such, one can't help but mention that Indonesia has been playing a very positive role in helping to maintain ASEAN as a well working with the regional body. It was especially visible during in 2011 when Indonesia was the chairman of ASEAN, successfully hosting all the regular ASEAN meetings including two summits plus the East Asian Summit. Indonesia has helped to produce the document indicating some degree of agreement between the foreign ministers, and, of course, next year when Indonesia takes over from Russia as the APEC chair. Because of this development, Indonesia will have a chance to once again show her abilities as an important player in international affairs.
Russia & India Report: The Centre you are heading—how is it helping?
Dr. Victor Sumsky: The fact that ASEAN occupies the driver’s seat in the East Asian integration process, of course, makes it very special for Russia as another participant in the Asian cooperation. So it’s hardly coincidental that several years ago, when trying to find out ways of dynamically improving their relationships, ASEAN and Russia started to think about facilitating information exchange between the two countries. Admittedly, there is still an ‘information gap' between Russia and ASEAN, still a lack of real knowledge of each other. That’s another connectivity problem right there.
One measure in trying to improve that situation was the creation in July 2009 of the ASEAN Centre in MGIMO University of Moscow. A Memorandum to that effect was signed by ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuvan and Prof. Anatoly Torkunov, who is the Rector of MGIMO.
Then it took some time to prepare the ASEAN Centre for launching and eventually it was launched in June, 2010 and is now in operation for more than two years.
According to the Memorandum, the Centre’s mission is to take part in various efforts: from participating in all kinds of analytical efforts to promoting contacts between business communities and what is now known as people-to-people contacts between Russia and the ASEAN member countries.
These days when so many linkages are born in the Internet, one way to help improve contacts is to establish a Web site—and the ASEAN Centre has successfully launched its site this month in Phnom Penh during the ASEAN-Russia ministerial meeting. And now everybody who is interested in interacting with it is invited to go to http://asean.mgimo.ru/en where he would be very much welcome both as a user and a potential partner.
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