Let’s have a marriage, not cultural clash : Najib

COUNTRIES should establish new frameworks of international co-operation based on a “marriage” and not a clash of civilisations.

This shift in thinking would force states to move away from their “zero-sum” mindset to a “win-win” situation in security and economic affairs, said Malaysia’s Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday.

“Why can’t we co-exist with one another, without being constantly juxtaposed in a duel,” he asked, suggesting that countries move away from the view that the present world was marked by the cultural and religious conflict as outlined in Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington’s book Clash of Civilisations.

Speaking at the annual dinner of the Harvard Club of Singapore, an organisation of Harvard University alumni, Datuk Najib said: “The interdependent world we are in today has made us inextricably tied together.”

“We have no choice but to co-operate with one another, and talk of a zero-sum game would render the whole exercise worthless,” he said.

In trying to achieve a “win-win” situation, countries had to make compromises, he said, adding that “expectations of gains have to be realistic”.

“In many cases, much can be gained if winners do not take all, and losers do not loose all.”

He illustrated the conflicting claims in the South China Sea as an example that could be resolved through such means.

The Spratlys, believed to be rich in resources, are claimed wholly or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

He noted that it was pragmatic for claimant states to talk of joint development although such ventures were still far from implementation.

While it was still not clear what China, for example, meant by joint development, Beijing’s “flexible attitude” could diffuse a potential flashpoint in the region and create a “win-win” condition for all the countries involved, he said.

Another example of a situation in which both parties gained was Malaysia’s recent purchase of the F-18 fighter jets from the US.

Malaysia acquired high-tech, sophisticated aircraft, which fitted with the requirements of its armed forces.

For the US, the sale enabled the continued employment of Americans in an industry that was going through “challenging times”, he said. “It is a win-win ideal situation which benefitted the Malaysians and Americans.”

He said that such types of co-operation could also be extended to the economic realm in the region.

Countries in the region faced a number of difficulties such as constraints on infrastructure facilities, the need to manage large capital inflows and increasing trade barriers. But these could be managed by arrangements which built economic confidence in the region.

Besides Asean, there was the Asean Free Trade Area, the East Asian Growth Area, the Northern Growth Triangle, the East Asian Economic Caucus and the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, among others.

Said Datuk Najib: “When dealing with future challenges, we can no longer be too emotional, too nationalistic, too proud of our heritage, our race, our achievements and our religion. The framework of relations must be based on co-operative schemes and ventures, and not on suspicions and threats.”


‘Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the century is the innumerable conflicts that have caused the lives of millions of men. Paraphrasing Zbigniew Brzezinski, we have entered the era of megadeath. No longer is the death of thousands significant these days.

‘In the latest Rwanda quagmire, the death toll is now estimated to be around half a million. What seems to be shocking is that the world community has not lifted a finger to stop the human carnage taking place in that area.’
– Datuk Najib.

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