Asia Society Policy Institute – ASPI Launch
By Farah Ahmad, Communications Assistant and Correspondent, American Pakistan Foundation
A rainy New York day did not stop hundreds of enthusiasts from gathering into the buzzing atmosphere surrounding the Rose Conference Hall at the Asia Society on April 8th. This day marked the launch of the Asian Society Policy Institute (ASPI). Perhaps more exciting than the inauguration of such an institution were the guests themselves!
Following Kissinger’s conversation was a panel discussion with opening remarks by Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, and Cui Tiankai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the U.S. Shaukat Aziz explained Asia’s increasing role in international affairs, citing Asia’s GDP and its role in free trade, investments, and infrastructure as apparent elements. Aziz also stressed the importance of steering popular perception of Asia as a “factory to the world”, and instead as a manufacturer and innovator. Aziz also highlighted important issues in the region that require more attention, including governance, reforms, technology, and research and development.
Cui Tiankai asserted that, “In today’s world, no single country can prosper by itself.” He affirmed the strong relationship between the U.S. and China. Other leaders, including Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Ambassador of Singapore to the U.S., joined the conversation. “How do we reduce barriers and trade?”, posed Ashok, regarding efforts to unite the continent.
When asked about the involvement of U.S. government, the leaders paused before answering carefully. Michael Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, state that the U.S. is ‘over-branding’ itself- the image of a daunting military presence, would be enough to make any receiving society cautious. V. Shankar, CEO for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Americas at Standard Chartered, emphasized regional equality as a priority first and foremost.
The discussion ended with an open question and answer session with the audience. When asked about Pakistan’s financial assistance from the United States, Aziz debunked myths, stating that the financial aid is not really as large as popular perception creates. Aziz stated that some of the ‘aid’ is in fact reimbursement for military expenses, for bases provided by Pakistan to the United States.