Against the backdrop of China’s row with East Asian nations over the South China Sea, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday advocated establishing of a “common set of principles” and “cooperative mechanisms” to deepen economic integration and ensure “open, inclusive and rule-based architecture” in the Asia Pacific region.
Linking India’s security and prosperity to the Asia Pacific region, he said, “our vision for this region is rooted in cooperation and integration”.
Addressing the East Asia Summit of 18 countries in Phnom Penh, Dr. Singh said the meet was “witness to important events and changes taking place in the Asia Pacific region”.
Speaking against the backdrop of sharp differences among East Asian countries over use of resources of mineral-rich South China Sea over which China lays sole claim, he said, “concerted effort and collective action on the part of the countries gathered in the region can strengthen mutual understanding and help us address shared challenges”.
For this, he said, “it would be necessary to develop a common set of principles, establish cooperative mechanisms and deepen regional economic integration”.
Noting that the EAS had built an impressive agenda for economic cooperation and for addressing some common challenges despite being new, the Prime Minister said, “we should try and bring the same spirit in addressing our differences”.
He said he had “no doubt that, together, we can create an open, balanced, inclusive and rule-based architecture in the region for our collective security, stability and prosperity”.
These comments came amid efforts by ASEAN countries to evolve a Code of Conduct for use of resources of South China Sea in view of China’s claim over the maritime region.
However, sharp differences have emerged among the 10-nation ASEAN grouping, with Cambodia advocating against internationalising the issue but Philippines and Vietnam refusing to agree.
Dr. Singh said ASEAN has been a bridge for India to the East and is central to the evolution of a regional architecture and its different cooperative frameworks.
“Forums such as the East Asia Summit can help create a large economic community in this region that will accelerate development and enhance prosperity, besides reinforcing mutual understanding and confidence in the region,” the Prime Minister said.
Dr. Singh said India welcomes the launch of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and supports the Phnom Penh Declaration on East Asia Summit Development Initiative.
The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of connectivity for increased commerce, contact and cooperation between India and East Asian countries and pressed for quick implementation of EAS Declaration on ASEAN Connectivity, adopted at the last Summit.
“Early identification of specific projects and the evolution of innovative financing mechanisms for their implementation would also help move forward this important aspect of our cooperation,” he said.
Dr. Singh told the leaders of the East Asian grouping that India has been happy to carry forward several EAS-related initiatives which include Declaration on Malaria Control.
“We have proposed a programme on capacity building and vector control management systems to our ASEAN partners earlier this year and look forward to cooperating with other EAS members,” he said.
Referring to the Nalanda University project, he said it is gaining momentum and first two schools are expected to commence teaching in the academic year 2014-15.