The century old maxim of Rudyard Kipling, an English poet of the late 19th and the early 20th Century, that "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet," seems to have lost its vitality as the culture of the West is fast melting with the East and vice versa. In fact, many misinterpreted Kipling as they normally emphasised on the first line of the stanza. In the third line of the same stanza, he says: "But there is neither East nor West." Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has attended the Seventh Session of the 45-member Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) held at Beijing on October 24-25. It was for the first time for Pakistan to attend this forum. The Sixth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) that was held at Helsinki, Finland, on September 10-11, 2006, admitted Pakistan into the club with the sole purpose of improving transcontinental ties. India and Mongolia were also admitted as new members from Asia. While the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria from Europe further enlarged the organisation, Pakistan's case was endorsed by ASEAN, China, Japan, and South Korea, seemingly a tribute to Pakistan's Vision East Asia devised in 2003 to forge close economic, political, diplomatic, and cultural ties with East Asian countries. Pakistan also perceives its admission into ASEM as an acknowledgement of its crucial role in war against terror, its status as a nuclear power, an influential member of the Islamic bloc, an active member of a number of regional organisations such as the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), ASEAN Dialogue partner, ASEAN-Regional Forum (ARF), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), and a prospective member for the East Asia Summit (EAS). Seemingly, influenced by the Asian initiative of 1955, ASEM was established twelve years ago in 1996 with the sole objective of strengthening relations between gigantic and multi-cultural Asian Continent and Europe. Since 1996, ASEM has held seven meetings every two years. The first was held at Bangkok in 1996, followed by the second meeting that was held at London in 1998. The third and the fourth meetings were held at Seoul and Copenhagen in 2000 and 2002 respectively. The fifth and the sixth meetings were held at Hanoi and Helsinki in 2004 and 2006 respectively. The group consists of the European Commission, 27 European Union (EU) members, 13 ASEAN-Plus Three members, ASEAN Secretariat, India, Pakistan, and Mongolia. Pakistan, along with India, Mongolia, Romania, Bulgaria, ASEM, and the ASEAN Secretariat, was formally admitted as a new member at the Beijing moot of the ASEM. In this sense, ASEM is an 'organisation within organisations', representing over 60 percent of the world population and 43 Asian-European countries. ASEM addresses political, economic and cultural issues to strengthen the relationship between the continents of Europe and Asia. With this new enlargement, the organisation has become 'truly more Asian' as well as 'truly more European' in nature and functions. There is still, however, more room available to bring more Asian countries into the bloc. As far as Pakistan-India issues are concerned, the forum would provide a useful link to help resolve the problems between them. European Union has some kind of leverage over the Pakistan-India problems such as the Kashmir dispute, water issues, overall peace process and the like issues. In this sense, both Pakistan and India find another forum to discuss their political, military, and economic issues. "We are confident that all kinds of difficult political issues and questions between India and Pakistan could be discussed in the forum informally," stated Irmeli Mustonen, Ambassador of Finland to Pakistan in 2006. It must be reminded here that ASEM is a forum, which is open for discussions on political issues and conflicts among its members in an informal and multilateral manner. Being uncontroversial, ASEM has greater capability to provide such a link between Pakistan and India. Pakistan's trading relations with ASEM are of immense importance. A number of ASEM members are Pakistan's largest trading partners such as China, ASEAN, Japan, Republic of Korea, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and India. Pakistan's total exports to the ASEM region stood around US$6.7 billion, while imports recorded US$19.5 billion in 2007. In term of percentage share of ASEM of Pakistan's exports, it was recorded 35 percent, while import percentage share of the ASEM region stood as high as 50 percent for the period mentioned above. As Pakistan's exports are on the rise in the EU region i.e., 22 percentage of its total exports, there is a need to make efforts to increase Pakistan's exports to the ASEAN region, which purchased Pakistani goods worth US$389 million only in 2007. Similarly, Pakistan should make efforts to enhance its exports in markets in China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and India, which fetched around US$2.1 billion Pakistani goods in 2007. While Pakistan's imports from these countries stood around quarter of Pakistan's imports. Therefore, the ASEM forum provides a good opportunity for Pakistan to promote its trading links with Europe, ASEAN, and also with China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and India. One has to see whether or not the ASEM has the capacity to isolate the US and Russian influence in Asia and Europe, the two most dynamic continents, representing over half of the world's GDP, and 60 percent of world's population and trade. However, 'energy-Asia' i.e., the Middle East and Central Asia, is still out of the orbit of the ASEM, which is the central theme of the US policy in the world. Climatic change, trade, energy, and food security were the main issues on the agenda of the ASEM Summit at Beijing. Nevertheless, the global financial crunch rose the significance of the ASEM. It has still to be seen if the ASEM would be successful in generating a US$80 billion bailout fund. While Europe is in the severe grip of the financial crisis, Asia has the power, capacity, and resources to pull out the European and several of the markets and governments around the global from the financial tsunami. China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan, ASEAN, and Republic of Korea have contributed a lot in enhancing the financial and economic prestige of Asia. China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea have a great capacity to generate a multi-billion financial rescue package. The role of China has attracted huge attention in the wake of the global financial meltdown. ASEAN and EU are expecting that China will invest in stocks and bonds around Asia and Europe. Many believe that China has the capacity to supplant Japan as financial leader. EU members, ASEAN, Japan, India, and Pakistan are looking toward China for the kind of role it could play in easing the financial pressure being caused by the global financial crisis. Many expect from China to use its multi-billion foreign reserves, reaching US$1.9 trillion at present, to bailout both markets and governments around the globe. Pakistani leadership also tried to find out answer to its economic woes at the ASEM and particularly looked towards China for help. Pakistan badly needs US$4 billion within 30 days to avoid a fast emerging default situation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was asked to play its role in easing the financial woes in developing countries at the ASEM moot. It was a message also given to the Pakistani leadership which came to attend the meeting to gain ASEM support to come out the financial mishap. The dying Bretton Woods institutions and system once again got ascendancy as the Asian leaders were probably not fully prepared to respond to changes brought by the global financial crisis. An Asian-based financial system something like an Asian Monetary Fund (AMF) is long over due particularly after the rise of Japan, Asian economic meltdown of 1997, and now with the emergence of China. As this could not happen again, developing countries have to re-write their terms and conditions with the Bretton Woods institutions seemingly on much tougher dictations. A real and a desired change would take more time. A new world financial and economic system is still far away. Until then developing nations have to re-learn how to keep living with the Bretton Woods system under severe global financial pressure. In sum, Kipling was right in reminding us that neither there is East nor West. By the same token, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barrios called for more help from Asian nations in tackling the financial meltdown. He said that "We swim together or we sink together," while arriving at Beijing to attend the ASEM moot. The fate of the West and the East seems to have more interwoven today than any time in the past and together they have the capacity to pull the globe out of economic misery. Indeed, the ASEM moot has opened a new era in Asia-Europe ties. The writer is research fellow (East Asia) at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)