And coming up with a dynamic ASEAN psychological perception is seen crucial when the ASEAN Economic Community takes off on Dec 31, 2015.
However, there is always this question whether ASEAN could establish a clear and meaningful identity for itself to represent a common and compelling voice of the grouping.
The diversity within ASEAN poses a major hurdle in coming up with a common identity for ASEAN despite of the fact that the grouping's motto 'One Vision, One Identity, One Community' emphasizes on a single identity.
A common identity shared by all is crucial in integrating the ASEAN demography.
However, the setback is the diversity in the language, religion, culture, economic parity, and the administrative and polity culture among the member states that keep them and the peoples apart.
This is far different compared with the European Union where they were easily united through the democratic political ideology and free market economy, apart from a homogenous population.
And the matter gets more complicated when developments in the members states are taken into account, like the political conflict in south Thailand, the persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar and also overlapping territorial claims, said Associate Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Rizal Mohd Yaakob of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's History, Politics and Strategy Study Centre.
IDENTITY BASED ON HISTORY OBSLETE
An ASEAN identity based on historical and cultural nuances is not the answer due to the extent of the diversity within the grouping.
"No commonalities have existed even since long ago due to the differences in the polity, culture, language, religion and even economy. This scenario is a stark contrast with Europe where member states were bound together by the commonalities that they shared," he said to Bernama recently.
In seeking the convergence point, ASEAN has to look for something different and create a new identity altogether that reflects the common aspiration of the ASEAN community itself.
A common identity is pertinent in advocating the three pillars of ASEAN - politics and security, economy and socio-culture - to promote stability and prosperity in the region.
THE ASEAN CHALLENGE
ASEAN's non-interference diplomacy or quiet diplomacy that prevailed in the formative years of the grouping in the 1960s gave way to constructive engagement in the 1990s. This was part of ASEAN's identity then.
Universiti Utara Malaysia's (UUM) international studies lecturer Assoc Madya Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani pointed out all this changed when former ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan introduced fundamental changes to ASEAN's approach in engaging with members.
The flexible engagement approach allowed ASEAN to hold dialogues with member states to settle problems, he said.
"For example the ASEAN intervention to settle the problems in Myanmar after the Nargis thypoon. ASEAN's intervention with the approval of Mynmar's Junta witnessed far reaching implications. It was an important turning point whereby the nation opened its market, adopted some democratic reforms and released Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.
However, ASEAN still lacked the ability and mechanism to consider direct intervention in dealing with matters relating to member states.
"We do not have ASEAN police or army that could enforce order like NATO in the West. Common laws within ASEAN and even an ASEAN court have yet to exist unlike in the European Union," said Mohd Azizuddin.
UNITE TO STAND AGAINST BIG POWERS
However, the biggest challenge that ASEAN faces is in uniting its members in face of global competition and the influence of superpowers.
As for example, the United States had many times over attempted to influence ASEAN's stand to comply with its interest, especially in trade and politics.
"Now, even China is trying to influence ASEAN member states to play to its tune.
"ASEAN is in fact caught between the vested interest of the United States and China in South East Asia," said Mohd Azizuddin.
Thus it is pertinent that the ASEAN Economic Community that will emerge by the year end represents a common voice in voicing anything on the rights and interest of ASEAN.
BRINGING THE PEOPLES OF ASEAN CLOSER
ASEAN at present should change its approach from nation centered to people centred approach.
If previously ASEAN's policy is formulated by the elite leadership without taking into consideration the views of the people, now they have to involve the people in every of their policies.
However, are the people ready for this? How are we to create awareness that the ASEAN Economic Community contributes to greater integration within ASEAN? asked Mohd Azizuddin.
Any existing impediments have to be addressed in the best manner among the peoples of ASEAN so that they better understand one another.
Though the interaction has improved of late through the movement of peoples, especially through low cost carriers, but major impediments remain including the language.
"Language is one big problem as there is no one single language that could be understood by the ASEAN population. The use of English too is limited.
"Its time that all member states introduce a second or third language that could be understood across ASEAN," he said.
Apart from that, cross cultural programme and student exchange too had to be enhanced to foster ties at the grassroots level.