By Suresh Acharya
The International Conference on Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), in its ‘Kuala Lumpur Declaration’ has reaffirmed that sovereignty, territorial integrity and equality of all nations, peaceful settlement of international conflicts and non-interference in internal affairs.
The ICAPP has become a major and unique political force open to all political parties across the ideological spectrum to bring out the best of Asia’s unity in diversity. The three-day plenary session of the 9th General Assembly of ICAPP took stock of its past efforts.
As many as five major political parties of Nepal participated in the ICAPP’s Assembly, held in the midst of increasing uncertainties in the geopolitics and global economy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in September. The conference that was organised and hosted by United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the most powerful political party in Asia, which has led the government of Malaysia since last 54 years.
Some of the participants were not so happy about the ICAPP because they think it has just remained as a ‘chatter-box’ instead of making concrete contribution in international relations and foreign affairs amongst the countries of Asia. The ICAAP today has crucial roles to play in the contemporary political dynamics and equation in Asian continent, which has been gradually emerging as a potent political force and economic power house. Bestowed with huge resources, Asian continent is poised to become most vibrant place to live and do business than other regions of the world.
The leaders of 87 political parties from 35 countries of the Asian continent including five national parties of Nepal, namely Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, Maoist Centre, Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal (RPPN) and Federal Socialist Forum participated in the the 9th General Assembly of the ICAPP. The Assembly was also attended by Asian political stalwarts like Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, former President and leader of main opposition of Sri Lanka Mahenda Rajapackchey, former President of Bangladesh Hussein Mohammad Ershad, former Vice President of Iran Prof. Dr.Hassan Ghafouri Fard andformer Prime Minister of Nepal Jalanatha Khanal amongst others.
As many of the participants had feelings that between the 8th General Assembly and the 9th General Assembly, Asia has gone a sea-change transformation in every sphere of life.Asia faces serious political, socio-economic and political maladies. There is increase in the menace of terrorism, which many of the previous speakers have strongly echoed their voice. Likewise, poverty is rampant, ethnic and religious confrontation is brewing-up, rapid environmental degradation and climate change have been high in agenda of every meeting, population growth is unchecked, decrease in agricultural production and increase in crop failures.
Whereas, during the same period, Nepal faced serious challenges, but we are resolute to “stand-up” in all fronts. The devastating earthquake of April 2015 killed 9000 people injuringmore than 22000; damaged 800,000 houses and the earth-quake related economic loss to the country was equivalent to 9 billion US Dollars. Besides, Nepal is facing tough timefor building the national consensus to implement the new constitution drafted by the historic Constituent Assembly (CA). Further, economic hardships equivalent to US$ 7 billion, that hit Nepali people due to a 5-month long India-Nepal border-obstructions creatingdifficulties in international trade and transit. All of these contributed that Nepal’s annual growth rate dwindled to 0.77 percent, which is one of the lowest in the world today.
Further, newly emerging threats coming from security issues, bad governance, corruptions, money laundering, development as well as, morality-related problems have added to already fragile situation. These man-made and natural hazards have cross-border ramifications; therefore they cannot be resolved by the effort of a single nation, but calls fora collectiveaction of the countries of Asia along with enhanced roles of women, youths and media.
The countries of Asia were historically linked with each other, where ICAPP today has emerged asa moral and innovative institutional-instrument for all political parties, so, it should broaden its role in making Asia, a better place to live. The leaders of the conference were convinced that the main goal of the meeting was to constructively discuss the ways of inculcating in everybody, the feeling and belonging to ‘One Asia’. The participants from all parts of Asia, whether they were Muslims or Hindus, Christians or Buddhists, all had a great confident that the 9th General Assembly held under the main theme of ‘One Asia’ would set the tone for Asia’s graduation to world’s economic power-house through shared vision and expanded cooperation of political parties of Asia and enhanced connectivity between people and countries of the region.
Due to difference in the meanings of political connotation of ‘One Asia’, the ICAPPneed to formulatesoon a common ‘One Asia Policy’ on the premise of peaceful co-existence, non-interference and regional stability.It concluded that the ICAPP could be a partner of sustained high level diplomacy to further the cause of open regionalism to achieve its goal of integration in the region and it could play a strategic role in linking up all the sub-regional cooperation efforts like SAARC, ASIAN, GCC, APEX and Shanghai Cooperation.
The Chinese ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, which has been proposed to link 41 countries of Asia alone could be one of the bridges- connecting Asia. Above all Nepal would be happy to see it on the map of the economic corridor between India and China, if both of Nepal’s neighbor have no objections! Regional integration based on principles of openness, equality and mutual benefit is the key instrument in boosting prosperity and welfare of the nations in the region.
Nepal joined handswith 35 countries of Asia to reiterate its solidarity and best wishes to the ICAPP for building a vibrant Asian community. Political parties are intermediaries between citizens and the state. Interaction between political parties is becoming an important element of the cooperation among states and international instruments as well. Participants from the land-locked and low income countries strongly believed that the forum like the ICAPP and it’s efforts have greater relevance in the current fragile system in place, than anyother time before.
(Acharya, Secretary-General RPP Nepal International Affairs participated in the ICAPP on representing RPP Nepal as its Head of Delegation)
Hope for ‘One Asia’
By Suresh Acharya