- India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar represented India at the recently held 15th East Asia Summit (EAS).
- The virtual summit meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister of Vietnam, and witnessed the participation of all the 18 EAS countries.
- The summit discussed ways to strengthen the EAS platform and to make it more responsive to emerging challenges.
About: East Asia Summit (EAS)
- Established in 2005, the EAS is a forum for discussions on important strategic issues in the Indo-Pacific and plays a significant role in the strategic, geopolitical and economic evolution of the region. The first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2005.
- It is a regional grouping of 18 participating countries –10 ASEAN countries, Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the US.
- The 10 countries under ASEAN are: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
- India is a founding member of the EAS, that initially had 16 countries. The membership expanded to 18 countries including Russia and the United States at the Sixth EAS in 2011.
- The 18 members of the EAS together represent 54% of the world population and account for 58% of the global GDP.
Highlights of the 15th East Asia Summit
- India’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar underlined the key role played by the East Asia Summit (EAS) in the Indo-Pacific region and expressed India’s support to make it stronger and more responsive.
- He also noted the growing interest in the Indo-Pacific region, as an integrated maritime space, with ASEAN at its centre.
- He appreciated the synergy (cooperation) between the ASEAN Outlook on Indo Pacific and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.
- At the last EAS summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proposed setting up of the Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative (IPOI) to conserve and sustainably use the maritime domain and to make efforts to create a safe and secure maritime domain.
- India was equally positive about the Indo-Pacific policies announced recently by other nations.
Discussions on South China Sea:
- In a reference to China, India expressed concern about actions and incidents in the South China Sea that reduce trust in the region.
- He further said that ongoing negotiations on the proposed Code of Conduct for the South China Sea should not be against the legitimate interests of any nation and should be consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
- China has been pushing the members of ASEAN to quickly conclude negotiations for the code of conduct for the South China Sea.
- The code of conduct is aimed at regulating activities in the South China Sea, where China is involved in disputes with ASEAN members such as Vietnam and the Philippines.
- The leaders at the Summit underlined the importance of cooperation in ensuring safe, effective and affordable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
- They also called for greater cooperation in keeping the global supply chains open for a quick and sustainable economic recovery.
- The Summit also discussed the need for greater global cooperation in the post-Covid-19 world to tackle challenges across national boundaries such as terrorism, climate change and pandemics.