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India for `visionary' outlook on summit

P.S. Suryanarayana

It is an important "building block for community-building in East Asia"


  • India looking for ways to fashion governing document
  • ASEAN goes well with Manmohan's proposal of Asian economic community

    SINGAPORE: India is pressing for "a visionary and outward looking" approach at the first-ever East Asia summit (EAS) to be held in Kuala Lumpur on December 14.

    India is among the 16 countries that will participate in the summit. The others are the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN); the "Plus-Three" group comprising China, Japan, and South Korea and Australia and New Zealand as additional invitees.

    Amid signs of a rift over the scope of the EAS, as evident during the currently "evolving process" of negotiations, India has made its preference clear.

    Speaking to The Hindu over telephone from Kuala Lumpur, India's Ambassador to Malaysia R. L. Narayan said: "We see the EAS as an important building block for community-building in East Asia." India, he said, was looking for ways to fashion a collective "document which will set out the goals and objectives of the new institution [EAS]" in this direction.

    The idea of an "East Asia Community" was set out as "a long-term objective," when the ASEAN+3 decided, in Vientiane last year, to hold the first-ever EAS. In April, India was invited to this summit, while Australia and New Zealand were included later.

    The current "divisions" over the scope of the EAS, as indicated to The Hindu by Japanese envoy Taka-aki Kojima, revolve around the question whether this 16-member summit or the smaller ASEAN+3 should be the prime mover for the formation of an "East Asia Community."

    If the EAS countries are to have no substantive role, India may find itself marginalised in this new exercise to create an "East Asia Community," which, according to some ASEAN members, can be viewed as an economic bloc with a security dimension as well.

    Positive role

    On how New Delhi came to be invited to the EAS, India's High Commissioner to Singapore Alok Prasad said the City State "has played a very positive role in evolving an ASEAN consensus for India's participation."

    This, he said, "is a very important development integral to India's Look-East policy and our growing economic engagement with the countries of this region." Mr. Narayan said India saw the ASEAN initiative "meshing very well with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's proposal of an Asian economic community." Noting that the region covered under the proposed Community was dotted with "economic growth centres like Japan, China, South Korea, India, and the ASEAN," Mr. Narayan said their markets, labour, capital, and technology were key factors to be harnessed.

    Mr. Kojima identified China and Malaysia, the EAS host, as being those who first emphasised the primacy of the ASEAN+3, not the larger group of 16, for the formation of an "East Asia Community."

    Other diplomatic sources, speaking on a non-attributable basis, said the issue was not a China versus India tussle.

    Those favouring the primacy of the EAS, from the beginning, included not only Japan but also Australia, sources said.

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