A word from the Editor-in-Chief: Asian values for the Asian Century

Enayetullah Khan
Saturday, August 19th, 2017
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At the end of an unusually and disarmingly bellicose weak for Asian nations (excluding the Middle East of course), during which talk of war broke out on not just one but two fronts, it is advisable surely to pause for a moment and take stock of all that would be at stake, if indeed Asian armies were to fire shots in anger once again.

 

The more immediate concern though last week, grew with the news that over in faraway North Korea, the third generation of the Kims had attained what started out as and has remained their most prized and exalted capability – to strike at US territory. As decades passed, and a succession of caricatures served to sate the extent of US interest in the country, it could have been easy to even forget they were still at it. Nuclear capability had been obtained a good while back, enlisting with the very Asian network launched by Dr A.Q. Khan, who fathered the Pakistani programme.

 

Yet what the North Koreans managed last week, after a period of intense, relentless effort during which they kept getting better, getting closer, even those laughable misfires had some intent or purpose -something they could learn from.

 

Those who put store by the mythical promise of an ‘Asian Century’ – the belief that as the 19th century in the Gregorian calendar marked the ascent of Britain as hegemon, and the 20th of the United States, the 21st would bear witness to a collective of Asian nation-states acting as the centrifugal force to drive humanity’s progress, ever forward. And once you consider the sheer momentum with which the two behemoths who anchor the dream have been making their spectacular strides in the last two decades – China a full decade longer than India, less constrained by the guarantee of freedoms, and hence today an economy at least five times heftier – who would bet against them?

 

But then what were they really getting? Two economies that despite relations, or lack thereof, generate $60 billion in two-way trade. ‘Chindia’, the rather belaboured moniker to capture the duo coined by Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist, never really caught on. But they could be civil enough to each other one thought, enough anyway to do business together. Their current standoff at Dokhlam, a remote plateau belonging to Bhutan, that literally forms the trijunction where three international borders meet, serves to display their difficult relationship.

 

For two months now though full, China and India have bared the growing distance that is likelier to envelope their relations in the days and years to come, in the absence of any real threat to their positions at home to speak of; and an unseemly, wretched strand of Trump followers who stray into racism and bigotry, this is the new politics: where the good are cowered, and the brave are idiots.

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