Former foreign secretary S. Jaishankar is hopeful that China and India will come together, but cautions that it won’t be easy.

“Can China and India come together? I think they can. They should. But it is not easy. It was not easy in the past. I don’t think it will be easy in the future because there are really a lot of issues between them," Jaishankar said.

Jaishankar joined Wang Gungwu, professor at the National University of Singapore and emeritus professor at the Australian National University, in discussing “Asia’s Emerging Role in the New World Order" at the MintAsia-Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in Singapore on Friday, 13 April.

He said China and India have commonalities, but both economic giants have not been able to reconcile their ambitions, values, and interest adequately.

Jaishankar said it is important for larger countries, even as they compete, to find some common grounds and set rules.

For professor Gungwu, countries in South-East Asia can play a big role in enabling China and India to rebuild their relationship and then bring the region to a new order.

“As to what role, I do not know; but that sense of responsibility must grow within the region, the countries in South-East Asia must become more aware that they can play that big role in enabling India and China to rebuild a relationship that is modern, progressive, and future-oriented," Gungwu said.

South-East Asia, he said, has already started to play its part in promoting the region’s growth and unity, but stressed that there is a need to push the efforts some more.

“An Asian centre will not happen if China and India will not come together," he said.

On the issue of a new world order, Gungwu said assuming that there is a new one is the wrong assumption.

“We are in a state of confusion, lots of people do not know what could happen next, there is a lot of tension out there; so assuming that there is a new world order is the wrong assumption," he said.

For his part, Jaishankar said Asia needs fairer, more consultative, a more broader kind of a world order, where there is much more common ground between players.

“We have agreed that the new world order has not come yet. The new order has to be fairer. We need a new world order there is much more common ground between players," he said.

Gungwu said Asia needs a new world order to live in “but we are not moving anywhere near it".

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