- Republic Day 2018 will be the first time ever that so many leaders will together be chief guests at the parade which showcases India’s military might.
- Asean is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
- It has as members Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam
In perhaps the most significant exposition of its ‘Act East’ policy, India will invite the heads of state or government of all 10 ASEAN nations for the Republic Day parade and celebrations next year.
Since it renamed ‘Look East’ as ‘Act East’ in 2014, the NDA government has sought a more “dynamic” and “action-oriented” approach in its relations with not just ASEAN, but also the wider Asia-Pacific, with emphasis on Japan. However, ASEAN continues to be the central pillar of ‘Act East’, and the special summit next year in January is expected to further underscore the point.
According to the external affairs ministry, this year, India and Asean are marking 25 years of dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction, and five years of strategic partnership, through a wide range of activities, both in India and through Indian missions in Asean member-states, including a commemorative summit on the theme, ‘Shared Values, Common Destiny’.
It is also significant that Singapore and Vietnam have been exhorting India to increase its profile in the region. China’s increasing assertiveness, some would say belligerence, in the way it has handled maritime territorial disputes, particularly in the South China Sea, continues to spark fear and insecurity in the region. At least 4 Asean countries — Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei — are directly party to disputes involving Beijing in the South China Sea. Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong is likely to attend the function.
India and Asean upgraded their relationship to a strategic partnership in 2012, and the government has of late sought to further impart strategic content to relations by focusing on stepping up defence and security ties, including with Vietnam.
As foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said at the recent India-Asean Delhi Dialogue, India and Asean share a common geographical space where they face common traditional and non-traditional security challenges. “Freedom of navigation and respect for international law is therefore imperative in this context. Equally, we remain committed with Asean to enhance our maritime cooperation, to realise the full potential of our ocean economy. We will continue to step up cooperation in countering terrorism, piracy and other transnational crimes,” she had said.
India and Asean are also “actively” engaged in negotiations on forging a ‘regional comprehensive economic partnership’, which is expected to emerge as the largest regional trading arrangement accounting for about 40% of world trade.
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