U KHIN MAUNG
(A retired diplomat)
To be frank and honest, I am not a linguist nor am I a language expert. I consider myself, in spite of my old age, still a student. A student, in the sense that I am “studying” language, law, diplomacy etc. And as far as I know, in some languages, for example, the English Language and our mother-tongue (Myanmar Language) a single word may take different meanings according to the context and in its way of usage. We will be able to guess the meaning of the word from the context and in its usage and collocation. For example, the phrase- “balance of power” takes different meaning from “abuse of power”, “power crazy” “power struggle, “power sharing” “power of light, “knowledge power”, etc.
In one usage of the word “power”, we have famous quotations. They read: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse,” In these quotations “power” means the right or authority of a person or a group to do something. For example, the President has the veto over all legislations. The 5 permanent UN security council members have veto powers. But in the usages of nuclear power and solar power, “power” means energy. Now, “balance of power”. What does the phrase mean?
Balance of power
Balance of power” is a situation in which political or military strength is divided between two countries or two groups of countries. Another political principle which is worth mentioning in this article is “checks and balances”. This principle is practised in a country’s domestic affairs. In the United States of America, this principle means the principle of government by which the President, the Congress, the Supreme court, each have some control over the others. It is the principle of the United States constitution that the political power of the government is divided between the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court, Only with an academic interest, may I present to you that in 1947 constitution, we had the principle of checks and balances under which the political power of the government was divided, between the Prime Minister, head of the government, the Parliament, and the Judiciary. As far as I could recall, under that 1947 Constitution, the Supreme Court of the Judiciary was the guardian or the watch-dog of the constitution. In those days, in some parliamentary sessions, the then honourable Prime Minister U Nu used to mention his request to the Supreme Court to kindly point out and advise if some of the government actions were not in accord with the provisions of the constitution. Under the 1947 Constitution there were such writs or legal documents which the supreme Court was entrusted with the power to issue to ensure the rule of law prevailed and the provisions and the principles of the constitution were well respected and strictly obeyed by executive organ and by the subordinate courts. Those writs were certiorari, habeous corpus and mandamus.
Well, now, please allow me to explain what those writs or legal documents mean. “Certiorari’, it is an extra ordinary writ issued by the appellate court/ the High Court or the Supreme Court at their discretions, directing a lower court to deliver the record in the case for review. “Habeas Corpus’: it is a writ employed to bring a person before a court most frequently to ensure that the party’s imprisonment or detention is not illegal” “Mandamus”3 it is a writ issued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly.”
I am afraid, I may have consumed quite some of your precious times. So, I would like to present to you the principle and practice of balance of power in today’s world of ours. The world is now called a globalized world, in which all countries, big or small, developed or developing are interdependent, But on the other hand, some big powers are getting involved in power struggle, power rivalry with each other. Thus, in this highly competitive world of ours, there are instances of balance of power attempts and exercises, with threat or use of force, nuclear deterrents and shifting alliances, etc.
Well, first and foremost, let’s take a look at the Philippines, a member-country of Asean. The Philippines and the United States have had the security alliance since 1954. But, since when MR Rodrigo IDuterte was elected as the Philippine President, there came out media reports that the Philippines was taking measures to shift alliances with China and Russia. The Philippine President even declared that this year 2016 would be the last joint military exercises between his country and the United States in the South China Sea, mostly claimed by a rising China. And I have read a news item which mentioned that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had agreed to provide planes, patrol ships to the Philippines.
In the economic sector too, we have read those news items about ‘balance of power” exercises. As known to you all, China is now the second biggest world’s economy, overtaking Japan. To achieve further economic development, China has also set up AIIB, Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank with billions of dollar capital. China has wooed developing countries to put in shares and become share holders of AIIB. The United States of America has also initiated T.P.P: Trans- Pacific Partnership (Trade Pact). According to the Strait Times news report, the T.P.P is a core pillar of America’s rebalance in the Asia Pacific. In one of the breaking news items. Channel News Asia has reported that U.S has warned that China will take export market if there is no T.P.P. As regards TPP, Singapore Institute of International Affairs head, MR. Simon Tay has said “the TPP is every bit as significant as military engagement and more enduring. MR Tay added that TPP causes the Chinese more concern than anything else.
In essence, in “the balance of power” exercises such instances of power rivalry, power struggle, power deterrents, mistrusts, threat or use of force are highly involved. However, in the principles of peaceful co-existence, none of these negative elements are involved. Mutual trusts, mutual benefits, and peaceful co-existence, mutual respect for each other’s national or vital interests are well propounded and practiced.
The Union of Myanmar really values and strictly adheres to the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. These five Principles were expounded by Myanmar, together with her two big neighbours, India and the People’s Republic of China, in 1954. The principles are. “Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, Non-aggression, Non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, Equality and mutual benefit, Peaceful co-existence and Peaceful settlement of disputes.
As regards these five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, may I present to you, just for the record and also with deep respects that these principles were jointly propounded by the first Prime Ministers of Burma (Myanmar) China and India, namely, U Nu, MR.Chao Enlai and Mr.Nehru. And these principles form one of the main pillars of Myanmar’s foreign policy. It is a source of satisfaction that these principles have also become universally accepted and that they were incorporated into the Ten Principles, laid down at the 1955 Bandung Conference of Afro-Asian states, which in turn led to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement.
In my opinion, these five principles of peaceful co-existence are well in accord with our age-old custom and tradition which can be translated in English as, “Let amity be eternal and enmity be ephemeral”. Well, my dear reader, what do you say, sir? Does the principle, “balance of power” involve strategies, tactics, or does it involve positive or negative elements, or do the principles and practices of “peaceful co-existence involve diplomacy and positive elements, but not any iota of negative elements? Thank you, sir-
Reference (1) Diplomatic Handbook, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Myanmar, Yangon.
(2) Black’s Law Dictionary, Bryan A. Garmer.
(3) The Straits Times
(4) A book of essential quotations
(5) C.N.A Satellite news
(6) ေဒါက္တာ ဘဟန္၊ အဂၤလိပ္-ျမန္မာ အဘိဓာန္