In a veiled reference to China’s aggression on maritime issues, external affairs minister S Jaishankar has expressed “concern about actions and incidents that erode trust” in the South China Sea region. He said the Code of Conduct negotiations should not be prejudicial to legitimate interests of third parties and should be fully consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Jaishankar made these remarks yesterday while representing India at the 15th East Asia Summit (EAS), a key platform for discussion on important strategic issues in the Indo-Pacific region.

He also underlined the need for greater international cooperation in the post-Covid world to tackle the challenges cutting across national boundaries such as terrorism, climate change and pandemic among other issues.

Jaishankar lauded the major role played by the East Asia Summit (EAS) as a leading mechanism of the Indo-Pacific region and reiterated New Delhi’s support to make it stronger and more responsive.

He briefed the EAS leaders on India’s response to the pandemic and highlighted the country’s efforts to support the international community.

He reiterated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to help make the Covid vaccine accessible and affordable to all nations. The Ministry of External Affairs said Jaishankar “noted the growing interest in the Indo-Pacific as an integrated and organic maritime space, with ASEAN at its centre. He appreciated the synergy between the ASEAN Outlook and India’s IndoPacific Oceans Initiative. India was equally positive about the Indo-Pacific policies announced recently by other nations. Harmonising various perspectives would never be a challenge if there is commitment to international cooperation”.

The summit discussed ways to strengthen the EAS platform and to make it more responsive to emerging challenges on its 15th anniversary and adopted the Ha Noi Declaration.

The leaders underlined the importance of cooperation in ensuring safe, effective and affordable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

They called for greater cooperation in keeping the global supply chains open for an expeditious and sustainable economic recovery. Regional and international issues such as the South China Sea, situation in Korean peninsula and Rakhine state were also discussed. Besides the Hanoi Declaration, the summit also adopted four other leaders’ statements on Marine Sustainability; Epidemics Prevention and Response; Women, Peace and Security; and Steady Growth of Regional Economy. The virtual summit meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc and witnessed the participation of all the 18 EAS countries.