India has invited leaders of all 10 countries of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to attend its Republic Day celebrations on January 26. This will be the first time that India will host more than one head of state or government at the R-Day event. Leaders from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will be in the capital next week to not only celebrate 70 years of India’s independence but also 50 years of ASEAN’s incepton and 25 years of India’s partnership with the bloc. Follow Republic Day 2018 LIVE Updates
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu will be seated along with the guests to watch the Republic Day parade. The leaders will also attend the ASEAN-India commemorative summit on January 25, which will be held at the Taj Palace Hotel.
The Association of South East Asian Nations was established on August 8, 1968 with the aim to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region. The five founding members included Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia later joined.
ASEAN and India began holding annual summits in 2002 to elevate political, security, economic and socio-cultural ties. In 2015, ASEAN leaders welcomed India’s “Act East Policy.” The volume of two-way trade between ASEAN countries and India was recorded at $60.05 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) from India to ASEAN increased by 9.4 per cent from $0.96 billion in 2015 to $1.05 billion in 2016.
When ASEAN countries meet in India this year, the theme will be the Ramayana — an idea pitched by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, sources told The Indian Express — as the various versions of the mythology are prevalent in the South East Asian region. The festival will showcase cultural interpretations of the folklore across the ASEAN countries and India.
At the Republic Day parade, the government will highlight India’s naval prowess as maritime security is an integral component of New Delhi’s engagement with the ASEAN countries. The tableaux from the North-East states are also likely to be emphasised, as it acts as a land bridge between the countries.
The leaders are visiting India weeks after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj completed a three-nation visit to Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore to deepen ties within India’s Act East Policy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has called ASEAN central to India Act East Policy, used the 15th ASEAN-India Summit in Manila last November to urge leaders to address the menace of terrorism and violent extremism. He also called for strengthening corporation to address the issue.