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Bilahari Kausikan: ASEAN must work harder to stay 'central'

The balance of regional vs. national interests is becoming trickier to maintain

ASEAN foreign ministers attend the closing ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila in August.   © Reuters

Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, "centrality" is a defining concept, an implied vision of regional order in which the collective interest of member states comes first -- or at least is not disregarded.

"ASEAN centrality" is not a magic incantation whose mere invocation makes all our dreams come true. Nor is it an objective reality that exists irrespective of perceptions. It is a political construct. If you do not recognize it, it does not exist.

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