Slow and steady approach is best to meet Asean's challenges

The ability to secure a consensus is vital for any regional body(S'pore seeks consensus on tackling Asean challenges; April 28).

I believe this requires leaders to take small, constructive steps, rather than big leaps.

While some may criticise such a modest approach as indicating a lack of commitment and unity among leaders, past lessons have taught us that lofty goals and sound bites should make way for practicality, realism and consistency.

Given Asean's diverse political, economic and social landscapes, national interests and agendas are bound to differ.

Hence, seeking a common language to understand and agree on a wide spectrum of issues remains a top priority.

To achieve this, leaders need to be realistic and not idealistic, when sketching out the contours of regional road maps.

Asean today is facing major domestic, regional and global challenges. At a time like this, steps to build trust and confidence could not be more important.

While some may criticise such a modest approach... past lessons have taught us that lofty goals and sound bites should make way for practicality, realism and consistency.

As Asean chair, Singapore should lead the grouping and buildconsensus.

This may include opening more dialogues on security and regional issues, fostering greater and close economic relations among all Asean countries, and creating robust communication networks for effective response in emergencies.

We need to create a "win-win" situation for members of Asean.

Certainly, regional cooperation should not entail the loss of national sovereignty, and the Asean project should not be a zero-sum game between national and regional interests.

Indeed, Asean has laid out a common vision for regional prosperity and progress for all. Now, Singapore needs to take the lead to help Asean achieve this.

Michael Zhou Xizhuang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2018, with the headline 'Slow and steady approach is best to meet Asean's challenges'. Print Edition | Subscribe