of International Law and Pakistan
The following excerpt is from the essay "The
Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty and the United Nations,"
published in 1965 by Mohammed Ahsen Chaudhri in his book Growth
of Internationa Law and Pakistan: a Collection of Essays. The
author was a Reader and Head of the Department of International
Relations in the University of Karachi.
See Also: SEATO (South East
Asian Treaty Organization)
Prospects of SEATO
What, one might ask, is the use of SEATO, if it cannot
do much to help the cause of peace in Southeast Asia? The only advantage
of SEATO, from the military point of view, is that it encourages
joint consultations, joint exercises and supply of American aid
to the members.
SEATO has already been trying during the past years
to develop some identity of interest between its Asian members through
cultural exchanges and economic co-operation. Special fellowships
are granted to students, teachers and journalists for study and
research in any of the SEATO country other than its own. Distinguished
persons are invited on lecture tours at SEATO's expense. In the
field of economic co-operation various projects have been sponsored,
such as Community Development Project in Thailand, Pakistan and
the Philippines, Cholera Institute in Thailand, Meteorological communication
project to guarantee greater safety of air travel and reduction
of danger to crops in Pakistan, SEATO Graduate School of Engineering
in Bangkok, etc. These programmes are useful, but a regional organization
such as SEATO is certainly not required to plan and to carry them
out. Further, it is very doubtful that such programmes will create
a community of interest between the SEATO countries or will develop
a sense of identity of overall interest and a common desire to help
protect it. The United Nations, it should be noted, has undertaken
similar programs in different parts of the world. They are in many
respects better, for there are no political strings attached to
One of the main purposes of SEATO, it could be argued,
was to check the advance of Communism in Southeast Asia. This purpose
it has partially achieved because no major conflict has taken place
in the region since 1954. However, full credit for it does not go
to SEATO. Peace in Southeast Asia exists in somewhat formal sense;
it is an uneasy peace (as the situation in Laos, Vietnam and Kashmir
indicates) which the United Nations is also capable of maintaining.
The heart of the matter is that without general Asian
support, the prospects of SEATO as a regional arrangement are very
dim. So long as disputes between the Asian states are not amicably
settled, there will not grow between them any sentiments for regionalism.
Many factors such as race, religion, culture, language already divide
the region and consequently minimise the possibility of developing
a common interest. Geographic barriers add to the problem of communication
and transportation. Apart from these, the economies of the various
Southeast Asian countries are competitive rather than complementary.
All these factors speak against the possibility of regional unity
Further, the divergence of interest among the members
is so great that it has crippled the organization. France, increasingly
involved in the affairs of Europe hardly pays any attention to SEATO.
The United States is more interested in wooing India on her side
than to make SEATO effective. The Asian members - Pakistan, Thailand
and the Philippines-are upset that a "neutral" country
like India should receive American aid on almost the same scale
as countries which have aligned themselves with the West.
Another major weakness of SEATO is that its members
had different things in mind when they joined SEATO. They did not
enter into identical commitments. Pakistan was concerned about the
Indian aggression. Australia and Newzealand were anxious to secure
American guarantees for the security of the Pacific. The United
States, concerned only with Communist aggression, restricted the
applicability of the alliance. In fact the United States' reservation
was positively improper. It created distinction between different
types of aggression which clearly infringes the spirit of the Charter.
The only obligation of a member in case of aggression
is that of acting in accordance with its constitutional process.
In other words each member determines when to act and what kind
of action to take. So the pact does not provide for automatic collective
sanctions against aggression. Moreover, the treaty is open to abuse
in the Article 2 which provides for intervention to prevent subversion.
Furthermore, the fact that some countries are members
of NATO are also members of ANZUS, CENTO and NATO has resulted in
a system of multiple alliances which Woodrow Wilson believed to
be the primary cause of war. This leads to another fear that nations,
while depending more and more on regional arrangements, will depend
less and less on the United Nations, and thus might ignore completely
the universal international organization.
Looking at the situation in Laos and South-Vietnam,
one begins to wonder whether SEATO has served any useful purpose.
Admittedly not. SEATO is not well designed to deal with the problem
of peace and security in the region. Nor, it may be added, SEATO
is a suitable vehicle for giving economic and technical aid. It
is now openly viewed by some of the members as an organization which
has invited the resentment and hostility of the Communist powers.
To say the least, SEATO is a weak organization and its usefulness,
as compared with the United Nations, is strictly limited.
Source: Growth of International Law and Pakistan
By Mohammed Ahsan Chaudhri (1965). University of Karachi, Pakistan
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