East Asia Summit set to focus on pandemic, economic recovery

External affairs minister S Jaishankar will represent India at the East Asia Summit on November 14, with leaders of the 18-member grouping that includes China and the US, expected to focus on the pandemic and economic recovery.

This will be the second time this week that the top leadership of India and China will be on the same virtual platform. Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit on Tuesday to make an indirect reference to Chinese infrastructure projects by saying SCO members should respect sovereignty and territorial integrity while implementing connectivity initiatives.

The East Asia Summit, which brings together the 10 members of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will discuss ways to strengthen the platform and make it more responsive to emerging challenges.

The leaders will also exchange views on global and regional issues, including the pandemic and cooperation among EAS members to achieve speedy and sustainable economic recovery.

“EAS is the only leaders-led forum of its kind that brings the US, China, Russia, India, South Korea and Australia together on one platform. It allows members to focus on strategic issues in the Indo-Pacific and serves as a mechanism to reinforce adherence to international norms and rules,” said a person who didn’t want to be named.

The external affairs ministry said India believes Asean-led frameworks, of which EAS is an important part, are at the core of the regional security architecture and need to be strengthened further.

The virtual East Asia Summit, being held on the margins of the Asean Summit, will be chaired by Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Vietnam is the current chair of Asean.

India is a founding member of EAS, which was established in 2005. “India also sees EAS as a logical platform to promote a free, open, inclusive, transparent, rules-based, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” said the person cited above.

At the last East Asia Summit in Bangkok in November 2019, Modi had unveiled India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), which is aimed at forging partnerships to create a secure and stable maritime domain.

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