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How MH370 episode has affected balance of politics in SE Asia

By Shubham

The disappearance of MH370 isn't just an incident anymore. It is slowly turning out to be an important determinant of the regional politics of South-east Asia.

The fact that the missing flight was carrying a number of Chinese nationals has the problem more intense. The big brother's open criticism of the Malaysian authorities has posed a big challenge to the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) to come up with a befitting reply.

MH370 gave ASEAN a nice chance to negate criticism but could it deliver?

But unfortunately, the ASEAN hasn't really succeeded in standing up together to resolve the MH370 mystery. The organisation of 10 countries had drawn ire during the typhoon which had devastated Philippines last year for a lack of coordination. MH370 gave it a nice opportunity to hit back at the critics but it failed yet again, and that too before a powerful force like China.

ASEAN's ordinary response has given China a chance to assert itself in SE Asia

Is there a lack of mutual trust among the ASEAN member-states today? The search was conducted by various ASEAN members in individual capacity but no concerted effort on behalf of the ASEAN was visible. Nothing was even heard about the ASEAN-Emergency Rapid Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT). There was also adequate evidence that the member states did not have a smooth exchange of information to understand the location of the plane.

If a search operation can't be coordinated, how can bigger political goals be?

According to observers of international relations, if the ASEAN states can not share information on the search of a missing aircraft, how far can they proceed on a crucial issue like regional security, one of the underlying ideas of the ASEAN?

Great chance for China to assert itself as leader in South China Sea

The fact that a large number of passengers on board the MH370 are Chinese has given Beijing a reason to assert itself over the South China Sea by involving in the search operation in a big way. The ASEAN's ordinary handling of the situation will make it more enthusiastic to deploy means, diplomatic and technical, to establish itself as the bigger leader of the region. The tilt in the balance of the regional power struggle in favour of Bejing after the MH370 disappearance will certainly not be a happy outcome for the ASEAN members.

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