By Iran Review
By Abdolhamid Bayati
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif launched his Asian tour on Saturday, March 6, and his trip came as the Old Continent has been a focus of attention for most world countries, especially the United States, since a few years ago. Zarif’s trip started with a visit to Indonesia to take part in the summit meeting of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the issue of Palestine, after which the next legs of his tour took him to Singapore, Brunei and Thailand.
When in Thailand, Zarif took part in the meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) assembly on the sidelines of which Iran’s foreign minister held bilateral meetings with other countries’ officials, including with his Thai counterpart. He then flew to Oceania, including New Zealand and Australia. Major international issues as well as issues of bilateral interest in economic and political fields in addition to the situation of Iranians living in those countries were discussed by Zarif during his 11-day tour of Southeast Asia and Oceania.
Importance of Asia
The trend of developments in Asia and its future prospects have been among major topics for debate in international politics during past years. The US National Security Agency (NSA) has predicted in one of its recent reports that Washington will lose its position as a superpower by 2030, but no other country, including China, would turn into a hegemonic power either. Based on this report, the power will switch to multipolar global networks and coalitions.
The report has also noted that by 2030, our current world will basically change, so that by 2030 no country, including the United States, China or any other country would be considered as a major hegemonic power.
The findings of the report show that by 2030, the most important factor will be empowerment of individuals and redistribution of power from countries to unofficial networks. Such developments will be the reverse of what has happened during historical rise of the West since 1750 up to the present time and will lead to renewed importance of Asia in global economy. These changes will also bring with them a new era of “democratization” both at domestic level of countries and at international level.
The rise of Asia in recent years, which has been mostly due to high economic potentials of countries in this continent, has caused all those countries to adopt economy-based policies. As a result, most of Asian countries have been trying to get rid of ethnic, cultural, historical and even border disputes with one another.
One of the most important reasons for increased attention to Asia is that development resources in Europe have been stretched to their limits in the present century. On the contrary, Asia still abounds with resources for economic growth and development, which can be useful to the entire world, so that, at present, Asia contains about 75 percent of all international resources. These resources are very diverse and in addition to rich oil and gas reserves, include mineral resources and huge workforce both in terms of quality and quantity.
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In addition to economic issues, geopolitical and security factors have played a great role in the emergence and alteration of the Asian identity. When introducing various regions of Asia and the entire continent in general, geopolitical viewpoints stemming from the interests of big powers governed the way such introduction was done in the past. Although there is still no consensus about geopolitical borders of Asia, some sort of integrity is seen in some regions, like East Asia, due to historical and geographical ties among countries in that region. Also, due to proximity of this region with the Pacific, it is usually called the “Asia – Pacific” region.
As said before, Asia enjoys special importance in the world today and that importance will grow up to 2030. This is why the United States has based its main strategy on Asia since 2011 and in doing so has expanded its relations with such countries as Japan, South Korea, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. The United States has been even taking advantage of Sinophobia project in order to encourage these countries develop their ties with Washington and US President Barack Obama made a nine-day trip to Asian countries last year.
In addition to the United States, Russia has been also trying to boost its presence in Asia and has been trying to keep up its rivalry with the United States in this part of the world. Under such circumstances, it goes without saying that Iran, in view of its economic plans and capacities that it possesses, will pay special attention to Asian countries.
Apart from that, Iran has many religious and cultural commonalities with some Asia countries on the basis of which it can greatly boost its ties with those countries and in view of its capacities, can even emerge as a rival for the United States and Russia.
Energy and Iran’s importance
East Asian countries including China, Japan, and South Korea, in addition to India in South Asia, are among countries with high energy demand and they import Iran’s crude oil to supply part of their needed energy.
In addition, due to its special geographical situation, Iran can act as a link connecting Central Asia, South Asia and West Asia to the Middle East. It is evident that every one of these secondary regions has its own remarkable economic priorities, which on the whole, provide necessary ground for extended cooperation among all Asian countries.
People in this region not only have many historical or cultural and civilizational commonalities, but their fates are also intermingled. Within this framework, security of Asian energy, as one of the most basic pillars of Asian development, is among major fields where Iran can play a role. Having huge oil and gas reserves in the world and with long experience in the field of energy in addition to having a very good geographical position in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, and due to its neighborhood with Central Asia, Iran is able to connect the energy reserves located in south, east and northeast of the country to Asian consumers through pipeline.
As said before, Iran needs to cooperate with other countries in order to achieve its economic growth target, and to do so, Asia is the continent that has many opportunities, which can play a great role in helping Iran in this regard. On the other hand, in addition to energy, Iran offers many unique opportunities as a result of which growing Asian countries have a special view to Iran. Therefore, creating a link between such mutual needs will not only boost security in Asia, but will be also beneficial to both sides in economic terms.