New president of Asia Society says India has a big role in regional dynamics

 – Gudstory

New president of Asia Society says India has a big role in regional dynamics – Gudstory

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The newly appointed president of US-based think tank Asia Society also spoke on the state of India-Korea relations, tensions between the US and China and navigating the increasingly challenging region.

Kang also laid out his plans for an Asia Society, which include deeper engagement with India. Edited excerpts:

How do you see the situation in Asia today?

The gravity of global affairs, be it economics or politics, is slowly but surely shifting towards Asia. Asia will be the center of it, and what happens in Asia will have a huge impact on the rest of the world.

The Asia Society, which has always focused on Asia and on increasing understanding and bridge-building, has a very important role to play here. Today, US-China bilateral relations are a big competition. What happens there will be very decisive for the rest of the region.

For many years, we have seen increasing tensions and rivalry between these two great powers. But I think since the summit last year between Mr. Xi (Chinese President Xi Jinping) and (US President) Mr. (Joe) Biden, both sides are trying to reduce that tension.

Competition will remain. But the willingness on both sides to manage it constructively is good news for all countries in the region.

We will also be watching closely to see what happens in the US elections, which will have a huge impact.

(Also), I think India is the growth engine currently. It is the fastest growing economy and has a lot of potential, but it is also very well positioned diplomatically. All countries are saluting India. And I think there is a greater scope for India to have a greater role and voice in driving regional dynamics forward, and we sincerely hope that this voice will be used in a way that strengthens stability and resolves divisions in the region. And the dynamics of conflict can be managed.

Closer to home here in Northeast Asia, North Korea’s continued provocations and upgrades to its missiles and nuclear capability pose a major security threat, but not just in the region. It is a global security threat, which is why it is on the (United Nations) Security Council agenda and subject to heavy sanctions for so many years.

In light of that growing threat, concerted deterrence must take place through the U.S.-Korea alliance, and the level of threat requires close security cooperation between the United States, Korea, and Japan. But we also really need to find a way to resume engagement with North Korea.

Do you think the US and China are capable of dialogue and compromise?

As a career diplomat, I have to believe that the will is there on both sides to do this. Perhaps the domestic politics of both countries make this very difficult. Nevertheless, we see that negotiations are very viable since the Xi-Biden summit took place last year.

I sincerely hope that its construction will continue. It is important for them to convey the message that both sides are working closely together, and this reassures other countries around the world.

As Foreign Minister of South Korea, you tried to build closer relations with India. How do you see countries like South Korea and India working together in an increasingly volatile region?

India was a key partner in our New Southern Policy and had excellent summit-level engagement. I think this will continue only because of national interest. I believe that these key bilateral relationships are very important in reducing the great power rivalry that is so influential in the regional context.

So I would like to see the bilateral relationship between (Republic of Korea) and India strengthened for its own good, but it also has a much greater strategic dimension, which reads regional dynamics together and works towards strengthening that. Finds a way. Space for peace, compromise and to reduce the confrontational dynamics that we often find in power relations.

What are your plans as the new President of Asia Society?

Amidst all these geopolitical challenges, we do not believe that the Asia Society will have all the answers. But we have a unique set of tools. We have research capacity on the policy front from which recommendations can be made. We have a very rich history of using our arts and cultural exchange capacity and educational capacity to strengthen people-to-people as well as government-to-government exchanges.

So as the new President of Asia Society, I would like to use the full set of tools at Asia Society’s disposal to create momentum for dialogue and manage difficult issues in these extremely challenging times.

Asia is a huge region and very diverse, and I don’t think our organization’s work fully reflects that diversity. I would like to see more of the ASEAN region registered in our work.

India is prominent. It is very important for Asian society to appreciate and join India’s growing power economically and politically. I want to see our engagement with India deepen.

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Published: 25 January 2024, 03:56 PM IST


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