For China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, I believe that their behaviour as states with global economic reach has perhaps now outpaced their behaviour as states with global political reach. For all the Asian players, however, it is fair to say that this international system in which your fortunes are now so deeply vested is yours to protect and defend. Challenges such as terrorism, HIV/AIDS, trafficking in narcotics, trafficking in persons, and yes, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, these are challenges for us all. And this is the reality which Australia has long recognised.
Now, there is no question that there will not be 100 percent overlap in interests between any collection of partners, of friends, or even allies, and that is quite understandable. We all want to do what is right in the world, but we all have to do right by our people, and that will always involve some selectivity.
When it comes to terrorism, however, after September 11 and October 12, I think most of the international community saw a clear, self-interest in cooperation. After all, the terrorists espouse an ideology of destruction, and they aren’t particular about just whom they kill. It’s not just Americans and Australians who have been slaughtered by al Qaeda and affiliates, but hundreds of Filipinos, Kenyans, Moroccans, Saudis and Tanzanians. Citizens of more than 90 nations died in the World Trade Center alone.
And, again, as we saw so horribly in downtown Jakarta last week, far too many Indonesians have lost their lives at the hands of extremists. But Indonesians have much more to lose in this battle, including their sense of security, their sense of confidence in the future. This is a time when the world community needs to help restore Indonesia’s faith in itself. Certainly by cooperating in counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts, but also by engaging across the board, in particular by helping this country along the road to economic and to political reform, and in so doing, to deny the terrorists the safe haven they often seek in misfortune and in turmoil. Without a doubt, it will be Australian leadership which will be essential in this regard.
It’s a theme, isn’t it-- Australian leadership. Indeed, Australian leadership, both in terms of military contributions and reconstruction aid have been important to reversing the fortunes of Afghanistan and rescuing what was little more than a burnt out shell of a state from the thugs and the terrorists who held it hostage. Indeed, some 90 nations have offered direct contributions to military operations in Afghanistan. As we’ve recently read, NATO in fact has just taken command of the International Stability Force in Afghanistan.
But a cross-section of Asian nations are also engaged. Japan has contributed military assets, as has the Republic of Korea, even though that nation is of course facing severe security concerns of her own at home. Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines have also offered military assistance, and China, for that matter, has not only provided reconstruction aid in Afghanistan, but has also proven to be a valuable partner in counterterrorism operations.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Kabul and beyond in Afghanistan, and I can tell you that it will take that kind of global commitment to overcome the decades of war and deprivation. But I also saw something remarkable when I was there. Everywhere you looked, even in the most devastated sections of West Kabul, there are signs of industry and signs of normal life, market stalls, tea stands, children playing soccer, women-- some in burkas, some not-- socialising in the streets.
Indeed, I think the resilience of the human infrastructure will continue to inspire us all as we work to build the physical infrastructure, which is going to take a long time and sustained interest from the United States and many other nations. And to that end, the United States has just announced new assistance of more than $1 billion for Afghanistan, in addition to leveraging contributions of other countries. And it is our hope that these funds will help support the new provincial reconstruction teams, the localised deployments that will be spreading out across the country to meet security and assistance needs in the main population centres. It’s also our intention to open even more schools and rebuild more roads and more clinics and support more local police and armed forces among our priorities.