By Ernie Bower
In 2015, Malaysian leadership and foreign policy will be judged by a benchmark defined not by Kuala Lumpur, but by ASEAN’s leaders.
In less than five years, Malaysia will assume the chair of ASEAN, and will be accountable for ASEAN’s delivery on goals set by the region’s heads of state outlined in the ASEAN Charter.
The ASEAN Charter outlines goals for regional integration in security and political, economic and socio-cultural ties. These benchmarks are to be achieved by 2015. The world will be assessing ASEAN’s capabilities and effectiveness using a measuring stick provided by ASEAN itself.
Cognizant of this fact, Malaysia will need to invest itself immediately in coordinating with current ASEAN chair Indonesia, and plan to expend new levels of diplomatic and technical resources over the next four years to support and help drive progress toward the Charter goals as incoming chairs Cambodia in 2012, Brunei in 2013, and Burma or Laos in 2014 (pending a possible trading of positions due to concerns over Burma’s political situation and capacity to chair) take their turns leading the regional organization.
ASEAN cannot afford non-performance on these self-acclaimed goals. Neither can Malaysia, whose chairmanship will be defined my ASEAN’s progress.
Ernest Z. Bower is Senior Adviser and Director of the Southeast Asia Program and the Pacific Partners Initiative at CSIS.