The East Asia Summit (EAS) is a unique Leaders-led forum of 18 countries of the Asia-Pacific region formed to further the objectives of regional peace, security and prosperity.

It has evolved as a forum for strategic dialogue and cooperation on political, security and economic issues of common regional concern, and plays an important role in the regional architecture.

Established in 2005, EAS allows the principal players in the Asia-Pacific region to discuss issues of common interest and concern, in an open and transparent manner, at the highest level.

At first, the EAS summit was attended by leaders of 16 nations spanning across Southeast Asia, East Asia, Oceania and South Asia. However, it was expanded to 18 nations with the inclusion of Russia and the United States of America (USA) at the Sixth EAS in 2011.

EAS is an initiative of ASEAN and is based on the premise of the centrality of ASEAN.

There are six priority areas of regional cooperation within the framework of the EAS. These are:

  • Environment and Energy
  • Education
  • Finance
  • Global Health Issues and Pandemic Diseases
  • Natural Disaster Management
  • ASEAN Connectivity

Maritime Cooperation has emerged as a significant priority area of cooperation in recent times. India hosted the EAS Conference on Maritime Security and Cooperation on 9-10 November 2015 in New Delhi which called for a more cooperative and integrated future for the region through overall development of the ocean-based blue economy.

History of the East Asia Summit

  1. The idea behind the East Asia Summit was first mooted by the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad.
  2. During the ASEAN Plus Three Summit held during 2004, there a consensus among the leaders, to hold the East Asian Summit (EAS).
  3. Since its establishment, ASEAN has held the central role and leadership in the forum. EAS meetings are held after the annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings and plays an important role in the regional architecture of Asia-Pacific.
  4. The first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 14 December 2005.

Members

  • The EAS has 18 members – the ten ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) along with Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States. 
  • India: 
    • India is one of the founding members of the East Asia Summit.

Need for the East Asia Summit

  • Its creation was based on the idea of enhancing cooperation among East Asian countries and those in the neighbouring regions.
  • The EAS is expected to provide a political impetus and commitment to a process that is already on, i.e., the East Asian countries are feverishly interacting economically with each other like never before. The intra-East Asian trade has reached over 55 per cent from about 40 per cent a decade back, and much of regional direct investments are increasingly inward bound.
  • This is happening despite the absence of a region-wide, overarching organisation and is entirely driven by market conditions. Theoretically, strong political support through an institutionalized structure will boost this process and may even result in regional integration. Such integration is expected to address two issues. One, greater interdependence will be a disincentive for countries to become militarily aggressive, and two, many of the existing security problems are unlikely to flare up into conflicts because of certain common, critical stakes.

Importance of East Asia

  • Important Nations: 
    • The eastern region of Asia consists of the Asian nations, Greater China (Greater China consists of the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), Japan, Mongolia, North Korea and South Korea.
  • Economic benefit: 
    • It represents nearly 50 per cent of the world’s population with 20 percent of global trade, and comprising 16 nations that are on a dynamic path of economic development.
  • Regional Security:
    • Considering tension on the Korean Peninsula, South China and in the Taiwan Strait, among others, it is vital for Japan, China and South Korea to maintain a common stance and to share a common concern for security in the East Asian region.
  • Global Implications: 
    • An East Asia community would play a big role in instilling a sense of responsibility in Asian countries and in leading them jointly in contributing to the resolution of global issues.

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