JDV: A shared destiny
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2018 - 12:00am

Persia, as Iran was known  before 1935, was one of the greatest empires of the ancient world, dating back to around 7,000 B.C. Iran became an Islamic Republic in 1979, following the Iranian Revolution which overthrew the monarchy and clerics assumed political control. During the next three days, heads of 100 principal political parties from 39 countries in the Asian region are meeting in Iran’s capital, Tehran, to share their views on the topic “Different Nations, a Shared Destiny” and on regional development and regional security  at the ICAPP Special Conference on the Silk Road. The conference is hosted by the Islamic Motalefeh Party with the support of the Iranian government.

Former House Speaker Jose de Venecia is speaking on the topic of a shared destiny among nations, as he is a leader in getting political parties together, he being founding chairman of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), co-founder of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), and chairman of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP). His latest title is as  special envoy of the Philippine president to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and for Intercultural Dialogue.

It must be said that the ICAPP, according to de Venecia, supports the vital agreement signed by Iran and a group of world powers – the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany in 2015. The EU, which helped facilitate the Iran nuclear talks, reported that “the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified eight times that Iran is implementing all its nuclear related commitments following a comprehensive and strict monitoring.”  The Deal – called the joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – is a culmination of 12 years of long drawn-out negotiations, strengthening cooperation, and which is “critical for the security of the region.”

De Venecia’s message, of which we have been furnished a copy, underscores the role of political parties and civil society organizations in generating economic, trade, political and cultural connectivity and people-to-people bonds with the ‘Silk Road spirit.’”

“Iran played a vital and actual role in the ancient silk road, connecting the East and the West, serving as the main hub for the international trade and exchange of various cultures,” says De Venecia. “Iran today is also expected to play a strategic role in the new Silk Road, by connecting and developing keen overall ties with the other regions.”

The Silk Road initiative, says De Venecia, could be the key in unleashing 21st century economic development. The initiative has “the potential as a constructive force that would facilitate the emergence of model upon which our nations could enhance our collective security.” Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed the idea of a “common destiny,” which a closely-knot China and ASEAN community could build together. The “two sides need to bring out their respective strengths to realize diversity, harmony, inclusiveness and common progress.”

Already modern infrastructure is bringing together Kunming in Yunnan with Phnom Penh and Singapore in the beginnings of a southeast Asian ‘Growth Triangle.” The long-distance trains are moving great cargos between Asia and Europe. The Central Asian states are awakening to the possibilities of modernization – as Silk Road arteries begin to link them, westward, all the way to London and eastward to Beijing, encompassing Budapest, Hamburg, Moscow and Warsaw,  freight to 28 European cities, moving them by sea and by air.

De Venecia  further envisions expanding, deepening and strengthening of the economic, trade, political, cultural and people-to-people linkages of the historic Silk Road by developing a “third route” to complement and extend China’s great “Belt and Road” initiative.

This means from Hainan island off Guangdong province in southern China, the route could also pass through the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Timor Leste, to Australia’s Gold Coast to Sydney and New Zealand, then move across the south Pacific, and enter Latin America – Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and the Caribbean islands, then Mexico, then all the way to the US as in the old days of the Galleon Trade from Manila to Acapulco, Mexico, which sailed for 250 years.

The proposed 21st Century “third route,”  hopefully an enlargement of the Silk Route, would make the celebrated “Belt and Road” initiative almost globally inclusive, after Europe and Africa, and “create a linkage with two more continents – Australia and  Latin America – in a new circumnavigation, in a revival of the Age of Exploration, and new spirit in the Age of Globalization.”

China’s “noble vision,” says De Venecia, is “being put to the test with the tough tasks it faces in peacemaking and promoting regional stability.”

Asia’s “most dangerous flashpoints happen to be in its neighborhood,” says the ICAPP founding chairman. On its northern flank is the rising danger of explosion in the Korean Peninsula, and on its southern flank the disturbing conflict over sovereignty in the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

The disagreement in the South China Sea with conflicting sovereignty claims may be settled, says De Venecia, by temporarily shelving the issue of sovereignty, and as advised much earlier by Deng Hsiao Peng, architect of China’s economic modernization, undertaking joint exploration and development in the disputed areas and converting the zone of conflict into a Zone of Peace, Friendship, Cooperation and Development.

Sharing of resources – hydrocarbons and oil and natural gas – as practiced among countries, instead of engaging in conflict and war, could help build a model for lessening tensions and solving conflicts, and avoiding the possibility of war in Asia’s manifold and dangerous flashpoints.

He mentions his proposal last May 15 at Bejing’s “High-level Dialogue on the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation,” about transforming the area  from one of conflict, into a landscape and seascape of small seaports, airports and oil pipes. Fishing villages and small tourism townships could rapidly rise in the areas contested principally by the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, into a Zone  of Friendship, Commerce, Navigation and Development, and become the passageway, untrammeled, for global shipping, carrying more than 50 per cent of  the sea freight of the world.

De Venecia upholds the prominence of peace among nations through interfaith dialogue. In partnership, the Philippines and Iran successfully sponsored a resolution in the General Assembly in November 2004, binding the UN to promote interfaith dialogue “as a way of resolving politico-religious conflicts, strengthening the religious moderates, and isolating those who advocate terrorism in the name of religion. 

Other pundits have spoken of the dangers of the “clash of civilizations”, but Iran’s then President Mohammad Khatami and other scholars introduced the more strategic, more pragmatic idea of a “dialogue among civilizations.”  One of the great fruits of dialogue was the nuclear accord of 2015 which provided Iran relief from the U.S., UN., and multilateral sanctions on energy, financial, shipping and other sectors.

De Venecia says  ICAPP has advocated in letters to Saudi Arabia’s then King Abdullah and Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to meet perhaps in Mecca and Medina and bring about the beginnings of reconciliation (between Saudi’s Sunnis and Iran’s Shiites) and the end of violence in the lands of Islam, and head off decisively the expansion and internationalization of the extremist groups, ISIS-ISIL. “We believe the initiative is most difficult but not impossible.” 

Emaildominitorrvillas@gmail.com

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