The View From Asia

Heal rifts, for peace

Neighbourly ties have been in focus with key milestones and anniversaries this week. Here are excerpts from commentaries from Asia News Network newspapers on promoting peace.

South Korea as peacemaker


The Korea Herald , South Korea

South Korea's ties with North Korea and Japan remain as tense and frayed as ever, 70 years after the peninsula's liberation from Japan's colonial rule and subsequent division into two parts along the 38th parallel.

President Park Geun Hye's government is criticised for having remained inflexible and passive in handling relations with Pyongyang and Tokyo.

Its initiative of building trust between the two Koreas while coping sternly with provocations by the North has gone nowhere since Ms Park took office 2 1/2 years ago. Some critics say her refusal to hold bilateral summit talks with (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe before the settlement of historical issues has held back South Korea-Japan relations.

Pakistani Rangers (left) and Indian Border Security Force personnel performing the daily Beating Retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Wagah Border. Mr Moeed Yusuf says that despite the differences between India and Pakistan, they must talk to each other. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Attention is being drawn to how Ms Park will address Seoul's troubled ties with Pyongyang and Tokyo in her Liberation Day speech today.

Ms Park now needs to focus on getting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is seen to have consolidated his grip on power, to realise it is unviable to pursue the development of nuclear weapons and the economy in parallel.

Many pundits here advise Ms Park not to allow Mr Abe's statement - which is certain to disappoint her - to affect Seoul's approach of decoupling historical disputes with Tokyo from practical cooperation in security and the economy.

South Korea should avoid being riveted to criticising Mr Abe's historical revisionism and pay attention to conscientious and rational voices in Japan to help create a friendly partnership between the two sides.

It may be fairer to the Park administration to say that China's rising power has put Seoul in a more difficult position to handle matters with Pyongyang and Tokyo. The North Korean nuclear issue is being pushed back and Mr Abe is finding more leeway to push for his nationalist agenda as confrontation is intensifying between China and the US over hegemony in the region.

Given this situation, South Korea needs to seek a greater role in promoting security and peace in North-east Asia.

India, Pakistan must cooperate

Moeed Yusuf

Dawn , Pakistan

I recently attended the prominent Chaophraya India-Pakistan track II dialogue, going in predicting that it would be consumed by point-scoring and grandstanding.

The backdrop was ominous.

The Line of Control has been hot for some time; the issue of Indian interference in Pakistan has been all over our media; and India has been bearish on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan.

Usually, such a cocktail makes for a dialogue that does little more than mimic hardline positions typical of government-to-government interactions. Some of this happened at Chaophraya this time, but only on the periphery.

The real thrust was a push for cooperation. First, it was obvious to me that the Modi government's rhetoric aside, Delhi recognises that there is no option but to continue talking with Pakistan.

Equally, though, Indian participants confirmed that (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi's focus in South Asia is on India's other neighbours and that this will continue, given that Pakistan has blocked India's ability to integrate westward.

The implication is twofold: One, even if the prevalent Pakistani view that Mr Modi was trying to isolate Pakistan was correct, Delhi has once again had to realise that Pakistan cannot be wished away. But two, India will fast-track economic gains in the east and it is, therefore, up to Pakistan whether it wants to benefit from an Indian westward push or cut off its nose to spite its face.

This suggests an obvious opportunity.

India must concede space to Pakistan in South Asia and back and support economic initiatives. There needs to be a conversation not only about CPEC but also about reviving the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline now that Iran seems set to break free of its international isolation. Equally, outstanding disputes cannot be totally ignored if meaningful dialogue is to ensue. Pakistan, in return, should consider westward concessions to India - in its own interest, given that CPEC's gains cannot be optimised till this north-south axis connects to the east-west one.

Second, despite all the differences and the grave mistrust on terrorism on both sides, they cannot succeed without talking to each other.

Finally, security experts were forced to think beyond the here and now during conversations on climate change - specifically water.

The Chaophraya dialogue has set up a task force on the issue, one whose deliberations convinced me all over again that the challenges we talk about pale in comparison to the threat from nature. The single biggest takeaway from the presentations we heard was entirely unsurprising: There is no way for either side to survive the scare without cooperating, and cooperating for decades to come.

Creating conditions for peace in cross-strait ties


The China Post, Taiwan

Cross-strait relations are once again in focus as the electorate gets ready for a quadrennial election for the nation's highest office.

Beijing is nervous and has been making assumptions and statements about the importance of the coming election for bilateral ties, with Mr Xi Jinping's words that "a new important juncture" has been reached and then Taiwan Affairs Office director Zhang Zhijun last week making a statement challenging Ms Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP on their stance, saying that "responsible parties must clearly state their positions (on the) core issue of the '1992 Consensus', which states that Taiwan and the mainland belong to one China".

Mr Zhang offered sharp criticism of former president Lee Teng-hui, who met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his trip to Japan.

It is understandable that Beijing is advancing its ties with the KMT, because both share a commitment to a one-China framework.

It is on that basis that the two sides have been sitting down at the table, exchanging views at the highest party-to-party level.

The problem with this scenario is that in trying to get

all parties to accept its viewpoint, Beijing is throttling opportunities for dialogue with the opposition. Put another way, a better place to start might be a position without preconditions.

This is especially critical because the biggest point of debate in cross-strait relations is the Republic of China's political status, and Beijing's view does not currently even recognise the existence of the ROC.

The People's Republic wants to win by offering some form of lesser status for Taiwan, but the crucial debate cannot even be had with such a precondition.

The criticism of former president Lee can be expanded upon to remind Beijing that the clash of historical memory remains deep in Taiwan.

There are those whose fealty and sense of identity are firmly entrenched in the narrative of a Greater China, with bonds to places and people and institutions on the mainland.

There are also those whose overarching memory is one of Japanese education, and who, through the turbulence of change in the aftermath of World War II, had to go through another regime change that altered the language and country of their allegiance.

All things considered, it is wiser for Beijing to stop taking a polemic stance and to give space to those outside its own worldview. It can begin by dropping the assumption that all historical views and allegiances that do not fit neatly with those of its own are traitorous, offensive or disruptive.

• The View From Asia is a weekly compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers. For more, go to

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Heal rifts, for peace'. Print Edition | Subscribe