I have great pleasure to come here and speak to you at the CSIS. In the audience, I am aware of the presence of many renowned scholars. Many of you have maintained long-standing interests in Vietnam. And many of you have made outstanding contributions to the relations between Vietnam and the United States. My compliments and best wishes to you all.
I appreciate the role of the CSIS as a pre-eminent strategic think tank in the United States and the world in fostering dialogue and understanding between the political circles, academics, and the public of the two nations. CSIS also plays a very important role in promoting awareness of issues relating to security, peace, stability and prosperity in the region. These are the concerns and interests that all nations share. And this is a very important and essential factor that helps promote the co-operation between Vietnam and the United States in the coming period.
I wish to raise a few thoughts on the strategic environment of the Asia Pacific, and bilateral relations between Vietnam and America in this context.
Current situation of Asia-Pacific
The profound and unprecedented changes in the world over the last decade have confirmed Asia Pacific as the most dynamic region in the 21st century. Asia Pacific leads the world in economic integration. We have ten out of twenty leading economies here. The flow of trade across the Pacific now accounts for two-thirds of the world’s total. The region also contributes 40% of the world’s total growth.
Today, Asia Pacific stands as a destination of opportunities for all countries in the world: (i) The United States shares its Pacific Rim with us; (ii) Europe enjoys long standing ties with Asia; And (iii) countries on the Indian Ocean are closely tied with the Pacific through the Malacca Straits. Economic prosperity of all countries – be it the United States, China, Japan, Korea or India and ASEAN member states – all contribute to the overall prosperity of the region. A prosperous Asia in its turns serves as a catalyst for the development of each country. The wealth of this region is tied to that of the rest of the world. And therefore, there is little wonder that today’s leading powers all place Asia Pacific at the forefront of their foreign policies.
These enormous opportunities offered by the region are conducive to the trend of co-operation and dynamic connectivity. Regional forums such as APEC and ASEM continue their important role linking Pacific Rim countries with Asia, and Asia with Europe. In the last several years, in addition to bilateral trade agreements, we note the emergence of multilateral trade arrangements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the free trade agreement in Northeast Asia. These linkages will make up a sizable share of world trade & eonomy and create new growth engine for and will lead to changes in the global economy. We can even speak of an eventual Free Trade Agreement that encompasses the entire Asia Pacific (FTAAP). Needless to say, the successful realisation of these linkages is of strategic importance to all of us.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our region has vast potentials to offer, but to translate them into reality requires an environment of peace in the region. Therefore, we must safeguard this environment of peace and stability. We must prevent and manage conflicts. This is a shared responsibility of all countries, within and outside the region.
I believe that the key to a secured peace and prosperity is to build and consolidate a regional structure. In this way, we can promote co-operation and create linkages among economies, among societies, in trade, politics, security, and culture. In this connection, ASEAN has an essential role to play. ASEAN countries lie at the crossroad between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. We connect all countries in the region, large and small. ASEAN is at the heart of regionalism in Asia . This is why all countries accept ASEAN centrality in the emerging regional architecture.
To ensure peace and security, ASEAN will bring into full use the established mechanisms and forums, and promote the development and implementation of instruments, norms and rules. To ensure the freedom, safety and security of navigation, ASEAN will promote dialogues, confidence building measures, full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and settlement of disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). Recently, ASEAN and China agreed to open formal consultations toward a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC). This is a positive, yet early sign, and we need to continue to work on it.
To promote its role as the nexus of economic and trade connectivity in Asia, ASEAN will double its efforts to forge linkages among bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements with a view toward a region-wide free trade agreement. The drive toward closer regionalism will serve as the catalyst for economic relations and intertwined interests, which in turn guarantees lasting peace and stability.
Major powers always maintain a grip on international relations, at multilateral forums and in Asia Pacific. To promote relations with external partners is a priority for both ASEAN and Vietnam. In the quest for a solution to regional security issues, what ASEAN wants to see is the maintenance of peace and stability, the effective operation of regional mechanisms, and the strict adherence to the international law. We hope that all powers will constructively engage in and contribute to this common endeavor. ASEAN shall not be a tool for confrontation or division as this will benefit no country, major powers or smaller countries alike.
In this context, the ASEAN Community of 2015 has become the foremost priority for all ASEAN member states. For us in Vietnam, this is a very important component of our foreign policy. We have been engaging ourselves in ASEAN affairs in a proactive, positive and responsible manner. We link our own interests with those of ASEAN. We strive to help enhance ASEAN’s role, stature, unity and consensus. Only by doing so can ASEAN have adequate strength to carry out successfully the Community. We will work with other member states to consolidate the role of the Association as the nucleus of regionalism. We will intensify our interaction in a profound way with our external partners for the common goals and interests.
Vietnam – US Relationship
Within this regional dynamism and prosperity, relations between Vietnam and the United States have broadened and taken off in many areas in depth, in breadth and in the quality of co-operation. If we look back on the long road that we have taken so far historically, we can realize the truly enormous dimensions of those steps and achievements.
You may be aware that President Ho Chi Minh stepped ashore the United States a hundred years ago on his journey for freedom and independence for his nation. He shared the universal aspiration of the mankind as stated by Thomas Jefferson in the 1776 Declaration that established the United States of America: The rights to life, equality, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In December 1946, not long after the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh wrote to President Harry Truman, in which he expressed the desire for the two nations to establish ‘full co-operation’. History has had many twists and turns. Not until 1995 did the nations establish formal diplomatic relations that opened a new chapter in the ties between Vietnam and the United States .
For Vietnam, a strengthened relationship with the United States is within the context of our foreign policy in which we seek to ensure independence, self-reliance, diversification and multilateralisation of relations, the overall international integration and the deepening of relations with important partners.
I just held talks with President Obama this morning. And I have the pleasure to announce to you: Vietnam and the United States have decided to form a Comprehensive Partnership between the two countries. Accordingly, our bilateral co-operation will expand to include all areas, including political, diplomatic, economic, trade, investment, education, science and technology, defense and security. I also held meetings with the Commerce Secretary, Agriculture Secretary, the US Trade Representative, World Bank President and IMF Executive Director, Senators and Congressmen, and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. President Obama and his Cabinet secretaries stressed that our two countries are having great opportunities to move the relationship forward, and that the United States are committed to boost co-operation with Vietnam in many fields, especially in trade, investment, economic ties. We will continue to establish mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation, with concrete plans, in order to deepen and bring substances to the growth of our relationship.
Another important element of this visit is that Vietnam and the United States have reiterated the determination and commitment to work with other partners to bring the TPP negotiations to a conclusion, in accordance with the planned roadmap. We look to a balanced agreement for development. With the eventual joining of this leading economic linkage, Vietnam has taken a giant step in our overall international integration and in the regional dynamism and prosperity. We hope to realize the benefits in trade, investment, technology, access to higher stages of the global and regional value and supply chains. We also look to create more jobs, to ensure social welfare and to bring the living standard of the population to a higher level.
Joining TPP will help accelerate economic restructuring and transformation of our growth model, and also help further improve the business environment. We do not expect this to be an easy process for a developing economy like ours. We will make our utmost effort, yet we also look to see more of the US side’s flexibility and co-operation. This is a very important factor. US business leaders whom I spoke to affirmed their strong support for our overall bilateral ties, especially trade and investment. And they would do their best to support a high-standard, comprehensive trade agreement that addresses the balanced interests of all parties. They would support a transitional period appropriate to Vietnam in the TPP process.
We are conscious that when our bilateral relations develop in a stable, lasting and substantial way, that matters not only to both countries, but also to regional peace, stability and prosperity. We welcome President Obama’s commitment to enhance co-operation with Asia Pacific for peace, stability and co-operation. The United States views ASEAN as the central pillar of this policy and supports ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture. The US also voices support for peace, stability, security and maritime security and safety in the Eastern Sea . Apart from TPP, Vietnam will accelerate cooperation with the United States at various forums, including ASEAN-led mechanisms, Lower Mekong cooperation, the East Asia Summit and APEC.
In the meantime, we need to continue our work on outstanding issues that remain between us. As a nation with a pacific tradition, Vietnam shelves the past and looks to the future. I am of the view that differences and disagreements exist as a matter of course in any international relation. What we need to do is to build confidence, to build our relationship on the respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty, equality, political system and the principle of mutual benefit.
Looking back on the history of Vietnam – US relations, the establishment of the Comprehensive Partnership today is the culmination of a forward-looking co-operation process pursued by both sides. It began with efforts for post-war normalisation of relations, then the establishment of diplomatic ties in July 1995, hence a new era of relations between the two countries and people. In the past 18 years, bilateral relations have made great strides. 2005 marked yet another milestone with the establishment of a friendly, constructive, and multi-faceted cooperative partnership on the basis of equality, mutual respect, and mutual benefit.
With the growth of bilateral ties comes the change in how we work together. The policy of embargo, encirclement, sanction as the modality of relations between the two ex-foes gave way to the policy of reconciliation, multifaceted cooperation and of forging constructive partnership under the principles of respect for each other’s political system, mutual benefit, dialogue and increased exchanges to bridge differences. Bilateral trade and economic ties have been growing fast. The U.S. became Vietnam ’s largest export market in 2005. Then within 18 years, bilateral trade saw a 54-fold increase. By the end of May 2013, US total investment in Vietnam amounted to US$10.5 billion, ranking seventh among countries and territories investing in our country. Co-operation in science, technology, culture, education, tourism, defense, security has all seen substantial growth. A range of activities has been conducted with fruitful results and positive impacts on both sides on such areas as healthcare, humanitarian co-operation like mine clearance, unexploded ordnance, consequences of Agent Orange and dioxin, accounting for missing people in the war.
On the topic of human rights, we accept that there are differences. The most viable way is to continue our dialogue in a frank manner so as to enhance understanding and to narrow differences. It is with that spirit that during the meeting with US Senators and Congressmen, we exchanged views in an open and friendly manner on our bilateral relations, including human rights and religious issues. I also invited several religious clergies from Vietnam to join me on this visit and they had very frank talks with American and international institutions who are interested in these issues.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The message I wish to emphasise is that Vietnam hopes to work with the United States to further this full co-operation in the interests of both nations. We should work together to nurture a peaceful, stable, dynamic and prosperous Asia Pacific. And we strive, we must strive harder in our co-operation for that common objective with the principle of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit.
I thank you, Dr John Hamre and other participants for your very cordial reception. I hope that CSIS will continue with your many conferences, seminars and roundtables in order to exchange ideas on the cooperation process in Asia Pacific. I hope that you will exchange ideas on how to boost the bilateral relations with Vietnam as well. I hope each of you will continue in your activities to contribute in a significant way toward this process, as you have done so far.
Posting granted exclusively for the Modern Diplomacy
(*)This speech was delivered by President Truong Tan Sang at the Centre of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC on July 25, 2013 during an official visit to the US. President highlighted the Vietnam-US relationship in a dynamic and prosperous Asia Pacific
Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva
19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders.
18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?
Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit
Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?
In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)
Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?
One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE) hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).
Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India, could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:
, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’
GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league — extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021. Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.
GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.
In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.
Analyzing the role of OIC
Composed of fifty-seven countries and spread over four continents, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is the second-largest intergovernmental body following the United Nations (UN). And it is no secret that the council was established in the wake of an attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Safeguarding and defending the national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of its member states is the significant provision of the OIC’s charter. OIC charter also undertakes to strengthen the bond of unity and solidarity among member states. Uplifting Islamic values, practicing cooperation in every sphere among its members, contributing to international peace, protecting the Islamic sites, and assisting suppressed Muslim community are other significant features of its charter.
Recently, the world witnessed the 11-days long conflict between Hamas and Israel. In a recent episode of the clash between two parties, Israel carried out airstrikes on Gaza, claiming many innocent Palestinian lives. The overall death toll in the territory rose to 200, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1305 injured, says Hamas-run health ministry. This event was met with resentment from people across the world, and they condemned Israeli violence. After 11 days of violence, the Israeli government and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire. The event of Israeli violence on Palestinians has called the role of OIC into question. The council, formed in the aftermath of the onslaught on Al-Aqsa mosque, seemed to adopt a lip service approach to the conflict. However, the call for stringent measures against Israeli aggression by the bloc was not part of its action.
Likewise, the Kashmir issue, which has witnessed atrocities of Indians on innocent Kashmiris, looks up to the OIC for its resolution. Last year, during the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Niamey, Niger, the CFM reaffirmed its strong support for the Kashmir cause. The OIC categorically rejected illegal and unilateral actions taken by India on August 5 to change the internationally recognized disputed status of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and demanded India rescind its illegal steps. However, the global community seems to pay deaf ears to the OIC’s resolution. The Kashmir issue and the Palestine issue are the core issues of the world that are witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis. And the charter of the bloc that aims to guard the Muslim ummah’s interest rings hollow. About a year ago, the event that made rounds on electronic and social media was the occurring of the KL summit, which reflected another inaction of the OIC. The move of influential Muslim countries (Iran, Turkey, and Indonesia), to sail on the idea to establish another forum to counter the OIC, manifested the rift in the bloc.
Many OIC countries are underdeveloped and poorly governed and are home to instability, violence, and terrorism. The consequences of the violence and terrorism in the OIC countries have been devastating. According to Forbes, 7 out of 10 countries, which suffer most from terrorism are OIC members. The Syrian conflict is another matter of concern in the Mideast, looking up to OIC for a way out. An immense number of people have lost their lives in the Civil war in Syria.
Several factors contribute to the inefficiency of the bloc. The first and foremost reason is the Saudi-Iran stalemate. Influential regional powers (Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) in the Mideast share strained links following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Both sides dissent each other on many fronts. Saudi Arabia accuses Tehran of interfering in its internal affairs, using terrorism as a tool to intimidate neighbors, fuelling sectarianism, and equipping proxies to de-stabilize and overthrow the legitimate government. Locked in a proxy war in the Mideast, the KSA and Iran vie for regional dominance. Moreover, Iran’s nuclear program is met with strong resentment in the KSA since it shifts the Balance of Power towards Iran. Such developments play a vibrant role in their stalemate, and the bloc’s effectiveness is hostage to the Saudi-Iran standoff.
Political and social exclusion in many OIC states is the norm of the day, contributing to upheaval and conflict. In OIC countries, the level of political participation and political and social integration is weak. This fact has rendered OIC countries vulnerable to unrest. Arab Spring in 2011 stands as the best example. Furthermore, conflicts, since the mid-1990s, have occurred in weak states that have encountered unrest frequently.
Saudi Arabia has tightened its grip on the OIC. The reason being, the OIC secretariat and its subsidiary bodies are in the KSA. More importantly, the KSA’s prolific funding to the bloc enhances its influence on the bloc. One example includes, in the past, the KSA barred an Iranian delegation from the OIC meeting in Jeddah. Saudi authorities have not issued visas for the Iranian participants, ministry spokesman, says Abbas Mousavi. “The government of Saudi Arabia has prevented the participation of the Iranian delegation in the meeting to examine the deal of the century plan at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” Mousavi said, the Fars news agency reported. Given the Iranian growing influence and its access to nuclear capabilities, the KSA resorted to using financial leverage to reap support from Arab countries against Iran. For instance, in past, Somalia and several other Arab states such as Sudan and Bahrain received a commitment of financial aid from Saudi Arabia on the same day they cut ties with Iran. Furthermore, the summits of OIC, GCC, and Arab League are perceived as an effort by Saudi Arabia to amass support against Tehran.
Division in the Muslim world and their clash of interests is yet another rationale behind its inefficacy. These days, many Muslim countries are bent on pursuing their interests rather than paying commitment to their principles, that is, working collectively for the upkeep of the Muslim community. Last year, the governments of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they had agreed to the full normalization of relations. Following this, the Kingdom of Bahrain became another Muslim country to normalize its links with Israel. Such moves by the Islamic countries weaken the OIC agenda against Israel.
OIC’s efficacy would be a distant dream unless the Saudi-Iran deadlock finds its way. For this purpose, Pakistan can play a vital role in mediating between these two powers. Pakistan has always been an active player in the OIC and played its role in raising its voice against Islamophobia, Palestine Issue, and the Kashmir issue. Shunning their interests and finding the common goals of the Muslim ummah, should be the utmost priority for the members of the bloc. Every OIC member ought to play its part in the upkeep of the bloc. Furthermore, a split in the bloc should come to an end since it leads to the polarization of member states towards regional powers. Many OIC countries are rich in hydrocarbons (a priceless wealth, which is the driver for the growth of a country); if all OIC members join hands and enhance their partnership in this sphere they can fight against energy security. And OIC is the crux for magnifying cooperation among its member states to meet their energy needs.
In this era of globalization, multilateralism plays a pivotal part. No one can deny the significance of intergovernmental organizations since they serve countries in numerous ways. In the same vein, OIC can serve Muslim ummah in multiple ways; if it follows a course of adequate functioning.
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