The East Asia Summit (EAS) is a unique regional forum of 18 countries of the Asia-Pacific region, established to promote regional peace, security and prosperity. EAS has grown into a platform for strategic dialogue and cooperation on political, security and economic issues. EAS is an initiative of ASEAN and is based on the premise of the centrality of ASEAN. EAS allows the major players in the Asia-Pacific region to discuss major issues and concern, in an open and transparent manner, at the highest level.
History of East Asia Summit (EAS)
The concept of an East Asia Grouping was first mooted by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1991. The final report was published in 2002 by East Asian Study Group which was established by ASEAN Plus Three countries (ASEAN plus China, South Korea and Japan). The report excluded countries like India, Australia, New Zealand etc. Under the leadership of Malaysia, the decision to hold the EAS was reached during the 2004 ASEAN Plus Three summit. The EAS was conceptualized to be an ASEAN-led development forum, with the summit to be linked to ASEAN summit meetings. On 14th December 2005 the first East Asia Summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by 16 countries (ASEAN plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand). On 19th November 2011 at the 6th EAS, Russia and USA were formally included as members of the EAS.
East Asia Summit has established a framework which contains six main priority areas. These are – Education, Environment and Energy, Global Health Issues, Finance, Natural Disaster Management, and ASEAN Connectivity. Thirteen East Asia Summits have been held so far, Indian Prime Ministers have participated in all the Summits, and this clearly establishes the importance India attaches to EAS.
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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional organization comprising of ten Southeast Asian countries, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, military, educational, and socio-cultural integration among its member countries and other Asian countries.
India’s Act East Policy
- In 1992 India initiated Look East Policy to improve economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia.
- In November 2014, this was upgraded to Act East Policy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the East Asia Summit held in Myanmar.
- Act East Policy promotes 3 C’s (Culture, Connectivity and Commerce) to develop better relations with Asia-Pacific countries especially ASEAN countries.
- The policy aims to increase economic growth and enhance connectivity of North Eastern Region of India.
- Some of the major projects include Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project, India Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project, Rhi-Tiddim Road Project, Border Haats, etc.
- These infrastructure projects will provide much needed alternative access to North East India in case the Siliguri Corridor (Chicken’s Neck) is compromised.
- The policy emphasizes economic and geo-political importance of South East Asian countries.
- Increased Naval Cooperation with members of ASEAN countries. India regularly participates in various military exercises like CORPAT with Indonesia, SIMBEX with Singapore, etc.
- With increasing assertiveness of China in the region especially in South China Sea, India has emerged as a net security provider for the Asia-Pacific region.
- Act East Policy and ongoing negotiations of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signal India’s strategic shift which is more focused on eastern countries.
13th East Asia Summit
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended 13th East Asia Summit held in Singapore.
- It was Prime Minister Modi’s 5th East Asia Summit.
- PM emphasized upon India’s vision of a peaceful, open and inclusive Indo Pacific region.
- India committed to strengthening maritime and economic cooperation for the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.
- PM reiterated India’s commitment to a balanced Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
- Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong requested India to join the group of 10 countries in a push to create the RCEP, the world’s largest free trade area, by 2019.
- Lee called for better sea, air, land and digital connectivity between ASEAN and India.
- Prime Minister Modi initiated his 2-day visit to Singapore by delivering his keynote address at the prestigious Fintech Festival in Singapore.
- Prime Minister Modi interacted with leaders of other countries and held separate bilateral meetings with US Vice President Mike Pence, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the premiers of Singapore, Australia and Thailand.