Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday exhorted the East Asia Summit (EAS) to move beyond making policy declarations and dealing with immediate challenges to greater functional cooperation. Speaking at the Fifth EAS summit, the Prime Minister defined the overall goal of forging a wider Asian community as achieving integration on economic, political, security, social and cultural issues.

Dwelling on the world economic situation ahead of next month's G-20 summit in Seoul, he termed the recovery as fragile.

This required “firm resistance” to new protectionist measures in industrialised countries and reduction of existing barriers to trade. Protectionism was not the answer to trade and balance of payments problems, he added.

Complementing an Asean think tank for identifying three corridors for building infrastructure, connectivity and industrial activity, Dr. Singh mentioned that one of these was for a Mekong-India economic corridor.

The EAS is a grouping of 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) and its six dialogue partner countries — China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia — to which the U.S. and Russia have been added at this meet.

Dr. Singh welcomed the first meeting of the Asean Defence Ministers-plus-eight in Hanoi earlier this month and said India supported “practical and pragmatic cooperation” through this new forum.

“We believe that in a step by step process, at a pace comfortable to all, this forum can make a meaningful contribution to building open and transparent security architecture in the Asia Pacific region. Tackling the growing threats to security would require a concerted response,” he observed.