An emerging foreign policy issue for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is whether to make a pitch for membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum .Technically, the group's existing moratorium on new membership will lapse by November ;and Australia is set to host this year's APEC summit in September.Dr Singh can,therefore ,discuss India's possible membership when he meets his Australian counterpart John Howard for the second East Asia Summit (EAS),a non-APEC event, in Cebu(Philippines) on January 15.When APEC imposed the moratorium at the Vancouver summit in November 1997 ,it described the move as "a ten year period of consolidation,following which membership issue will be considered further". Importantly ,outside the United Nations,APEC is the only economics - driven multilateral body to have within its fold both the United States and China ,two major power houses at different stages of development .
For India,APEC's attractiveness is a trade - related goal set out by the forum at its Hanoi summit last November ,when the leaders authorised "further studies on ways and means to promote regional economic integration ,including a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific as a long-term prospect". A report in this regard is to be submitted at the Sydney summit in September.And since the Bangkok summit in 2003 ,APEC is equally seized of trade - related security and anti-terror issues. These new aspects combine to create an opportunity in multilateral diplomacy that needs to be seized by India.For APEC too, there is no point in losing a chance to network with a major emerging economy like India . However, one technical hurdle is the APEC stipulation that "an applicant economy should be located in Asia-Pacific region". It is for India to emphasise the hyphenated nature of this region and draw attention to an important plus.As a founder-participant in the evolving EAS process ,India is already privy to the inter - state affairs of the Pacific - bordering East Asia .APEC membership will be a logical follow-up ,with potential benefits to both sides.