Close ASEAN, Russia's cooperation will increase Russia's political role in Asia – Thai expert

May 12, 2016 6:15 am 

BANGKOK, May 11 — Close cooperation between Russia and the ASEAN will bring economic benefits and greater political presence of the country in Asia, Thailand's political analyst Dr Paradon Rangsimaporn told Russia's TASS news agency on Tuesday.

"The forming of the ASEAN Community with its three pillars – Political-Security, Economic, Socio-Cultural – presents greater opportunities for other countries, including Russia, as it represents both a powerful political and economic bloc of more than 600 million people with an economic worth of around USD 2.6 trillion," Rangsimaporn said.

If Russia can access this huge market extensively, it would be able to reap the economic benefits, and if it can forge stronger and closer relations with ASEAN, this would lend greater political weight to Russia's presence and role in Asia, said the author of the book 'Russia as an Aspiring Great Power in East Asia.'

"Russia believes itself a great power and demands that it be recognised as such. Two-thirds of its territory is in Asia and it claims to be both a European and Asian power, or more often, a unique Eurasian one. But historically and culturally Russia is closer to Europe than to Asia," the expert added.

He said that Russia's hosting of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) in 2012 in Vladivostok was a big opportunity for Russia to develop and modernize its Far Eastern territories but it "appears that the momentum for this died down afterwards."

"While Russia does have many attributes of a great power – large territory, an impressive arsenal, and political weight – its economy has been hit hard by falling energy prices and Western sanctions," Rangsimaporn said.

"Russia, to really have a greater presence, role and weight in Asia, must develop its economic strength, by diversifying its economy and modernizing its industry and business sectors, and by reducing its economic dependence on energy resources.

"It must have a greater economic presence in Asia for it to be accepted as a real power and player in the region. Indeed, Russia-ASEAN trade is very low and the lowest among all of ASEAN's dialogue partners," he noted.

At the upcoming Russia-ASEAN summit, he felt that there should be more focus people-to-people contact and greater understanding of each other through socio-cultural activities and education.

"Such greater understanding and knowledge would help lead us towards greater economic and political engagement as well as strengthen ties."

The Russia-ASEAN summit will be held in Sochi on May 19-20 and will become the biggest international event in Russia in 2016.

The summit will be themed "Towards Strategic Partnership for the Sake of the Common Good."

The summit is expected to adopt a declaration that will lay the basis for an action plan of Russia-ASEAN cooperation in the political, economic and cultural spheres, as well as in the sphere of security.

Russia has been ASEAN'S dialogue partner since July 1996.

According to TASS similar partnership summits are normally held on the territory of member-states and the choice of Sochi as venue for the Russia-ASEAN summit on the partnership's 20th anniversary is symbolic. (PNA/Bernama)

RMA/SSC

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