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East Asia Summit (EAS)

I. Introduction:

1. 2005 - First-Ever East Asia Summit (EAS):
The first-ever East Asia Summit (EAS) was held in Kuala Lumpur on December 14, 2005. It was attended by the leaders of 16 countries including the 10 ASEAN nations, besides China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. The EAS was first agreed upon the 'ASEAN plus three' in 2004.

2. Reasons Behind the Invitation to India:

Analysts point out that the ASEAN's invitation to India to the EAS could be attributed to the following two key factors:

India's Fast Growing Economy and the Changing Global Scenario:
India's accelerated economic growth over the past few years is seen as a key factor behind ASEAN's invitation to India. Moreover, in the changing global scenario, India can play a key role in the region's security environment.

Support From Friendly Countries Within ASEAN:
Singapore and Indonesia took the initiative for India's inclusion as an important EAS participant.

3. US Not Invited to the EAS:
The United States was not invited to the EAS as it did not meet the ASEAN criteria. Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the summit as a guest of the host Malaysia.

4. Importance of India and China in the East Asian Context:

China a Valued Economic Partner of the ASEAN:
Analysts point out that China is currently viewed by the ASEAN as a valued economic partner and security-related collaborator. Earlier, China was seen as a potential security threat. It is felt that the change has to do more with China's post-Cold War diplomacy as well as ASEAN's increased self-confidence.

China Views the EAS as a Confidence-Building Exercise Among the Participants:
Analysts feel that in China's view the political and security-related cooperation among the EAS participants and confidence-building exercises by them are significant from a global perspective.

India Views the EAS as a First Step Towards the Formation of an Asian Economic Community:
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out that India's vision at the EAS was to bring about an Asian Economic Community. He stressed that the Asian Economic Community would constitute a new pole for growth and stability in the global economy.

A Fast Growing Indian Economy Beneficial to South-East Asia:
Dr. Singh pointed out that a fast growing Indian economy with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $700 billion and an annual growth rate of seven to eight per cent would have a beneficial impact on South-East Asia.

India's Relations with China Moving in a Healthy Direction:
Dr. Manmohan Singh stressed that India and China are partners and not competitors. He emphasised on India's effort to engage China in greater economic interaction. India's relations with China were moving in a healthy direction.

India's Non-Confrontational Approach at the EAS:
India adopted a non-confrontational approach during the negotiations over the EAS' draft declaration emphasising the need for a clear vision. It helped the EAS in finalising a Declaration that reflects the commitment of all participants to deepen integration and to work towards the creation of a community in the region.

II. Third EAS Summit (Singapore, November 21, 2007):

Declaration on Climate Change, Energy and Environment:

1. Declaration of Intent Not a Negotiated Treaty:
The East Asia Summit (EAS) Chairman and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described the document issued at the end of the third EAS summit as a declaration of intent, not a negotiated treaty. It does not fix any numerical targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

2. India's Stand:

Offered to Place Cap on Per Person Greenhouse Gas Emissions Equivalent to the Cap the Developed Countries would be Willing to Agree:
India offered to place a cap on per person greenhouse gas emissions at a level equivalent to a cap that the developed countries would be willing to agree upon.

India's First Priority is Economic Growth:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the EAS leaders that economic growth would be India's first priority and climate change issues would be looked at under that prism.
India's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Much Smaller than those of the Developed Countries

On Per Person Basis:
Dr. Singh pointed out that India's greenhouse gas emissions were much smaller than those of the developed countries, especially when measured on a per person basis. India being entitled to the same standards as those that the developed countries applied to themselves, it would be prepared to match any commitments made by the developed nations within the framework of economic growth.

3. China and India Made Eloquent Presentations on the Priority of Economic Development to Them:
EAS Chairman and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that China and India made eloquent presentations on why economic development was a priority for them over greenhouse gas issues.

4. Japan's Proposal for a Sustainable East Asia:
Japan proposed a new package of measures to ensure a "sustainable East Asia". The proposal is based on the premise that Japan could help its other East Asian partners in adopting eco-friendly but growth-protective technologies to ensure worldwide reduction of greenhouse gases by half by 2050. This was in tune with its earlier proposal "Cool Earth 50" at the APEC summit for world wide reduction of greenhouse gases by half by 2050.

5. EAS Declares Intention to Cooperate for Development and Use of Civilian Nuclear Energy:
The leaders of the EAS also declared their intention to cooperate for the development and use of civilian nuclear energy. The Indo-US civil nuclear agreement did not figure in the discussions.

III. Significance of EAS to India:

1. Culmination of India's Look East Policy:
Analysts point out that India's participation in the first EAS is the culmination of its 'Look East Policy', which was put in place in the early 1990s. It also reflects the change in attitude of the regional players towards India.

2. Significant for India's Economic Integration with the East:
The EAS is seen as very significant in India's economic integration with the East, and a stepping-stone to joining the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. India is stressing on rapid economic integration to eventually create the largest Free Trade Area (FTA) in the world comprising of nearly three billion people from India to New Zealand.

3. India Aiming to Acquire Strategic Presence Beyond Its Immediate Region:
Analysts point out that India's participation in the EAS points to its aim of acquiring a strategic presence beyond its immediate region. India also hopes for major economic gains by participating in the EAS.

4. India Wants Greater Economic Integration at the Asian Level:
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed on greater economic integration at the Asian level. He suggested that the EAS set up a follow-up a follow-up mechanism consisting of officials and experts. This mechanism would prepare a roadmap.

5. EAS Holds Promise for the Future:
Analysts feel that India needs to engage with the East, even while continuing its partnership with the West. ASEAN member countries have focused towards India as they do not want to miss the opportunities offered by an emerging economic power. The EAS and ASEAN hold promise for the future and are very significant from India's point of view.

6. Third EAS Summit Revealed the Centrality of India as Player in Greater East Asia:
Analysts point out that the third EAS summit in Singapore in November 2007 revealed the centrality of India in the current process of inter-State engagement in Greater East Asia. This was best symbolised by the dedication of an exhibition in Singapore, named as the "Nalanda Trail", as an EAS project. The exhibition focused on old Buddhist links between India and East Asia.

7. EAS is the Only Pan-Regional Forum where India and China are Members:
Another significant aspect is that EAS is the only pan-regional forum, as different from sub-regional groups, where India and China are members. At the third EAS summit India and China made common cause in emphasising how economic growth would remain a priority for both countries and how they could consider eco-targets only within the ambit of priorities.

Published date : 08 Sep 2009 01:11PM

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