India to host 10 ASEAN leaders on Republic Day: Unprecedented event comes as relations complete 25 years

In this year's Republic Day, 10 heads of States and government from the ASEAN member-states will share the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind. This is for the first time that not one but ten world leaders will be the chief guests at the annual Republic Day parade.

The leaders participating in the Republic Day parade are President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha of Thailand, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, the Sultan of Brunei, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos and Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia.

The historic gathering will come just two months after Modi visited Manila to attend the ASEAN Summit, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of India becoming a sectoral partner of ASEAN.

To mark the silver jubilee of India-ASEAN bilateral ties, India will be hosting a commemorative summit on the theme "Shared Values, Common Destiny” on 25 January.

Furthermore, Modi is also set to hold nine bilateral meetings with leaders of Southeast Asian countries on the sidelines of the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit, which will have a focus on counter-terrorism, security and connectivity.

According to a PTI report, there will be a "leaders' retreat" during which the leaders will have a "free and frank" discussion on 25 January. The theme of the retreat session is 'maritime cooperation and security'. Following the retreat, a plenary session will take place on the same day.

This will be Modi's second multilateral engagement of the week after addressing the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland's Davos. While hardselling India's economic opportunities to the world, the prime minister also held bilateral talks with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau, Swiss president Alan Berset and Queen Maxima of Netherlands.

File image of the ASEAN Summit 2017. AP

File image of the ASEAN Summit 2017. AP

1992 to present

In his speech at the ASEAN Summit in November 2017, Modi had focused on India's "Act East" policy and stressed on developing better economic ties with the countries of the economic union. Modi's stress on "Act East" policy was in line with India's push towards east and South East Asia in the post-liberalisation era. The India-ASEAN relationship has grown steadily between 1992 and 2017. In 1996, India's relationship with the ASEAN got upgraded to that of a dialogue partner. Six years later, India became a summit-level partner. In 2012, the relationship transformed into a "strategic partnership".

In October 2013, India decided to establish a permanent mission to the ASEAN. Suresh K Reddy was appointed as first resident Ambassador of Indian Mission to ASEAN and the Mission started functioning from its new Chancery premises from January 2015.

Economic relations

Economic relationship between India and ASEAN is growing steadily, according to the Ministry of External Affairs. As of 2017, ASEAN is India's fourth largest trading partner.

India's export to ASEAN increased to $31.07 billion in 2016-17 from $25 billion in 2015-16. On the other hand, India’s import to ASEAN increased by 1.8 percent in 2016-17 vis-à-vis 2015-16 and stood at $40.63 billion. This shows that India maintains a trade deficit with the multilateral union.

In addition, ASEAN accounts for approximately 12.5 percent of investment flows into India since 2000.The high point of India-ASEAN economic relations came in 2014, when the two entities formally signed the Free Trade Agreement.

Convergence in India-ASEAN ties

South China Sea dispute

India and ASEAN seem to be on the same page on the issue of China's alleged hegemony in the South China Sea. In line with ASEAN countries, which are looking for a rules-based security infrastructure in the disputed waters, India in November said, ""India assures the ASEAN of its steady support towards achieving a rules-based regional security architecture that best attests to the region’s interests and its peaceful development." Notably, China's aggressive military build up in the SCS was one of the focus areas of the deliberations at the 2017 ASEAN summit.

Counter terrorism

Terrorism is another area where India and ASEAN find some common ground. In the 2012 joint declaration, they decided to have a framework for cooperation to prevent, disrupt and combat international terrorism "through the exchange and flow of information, intelligence and capacity-building." ASEAN and India had also decided to enhance the efficacy of those efforts to combat terrorism.

Maritime connectivity and security co-operation

India is wooing ASEAN with connectivity and maritime security plans in the upcoming India-ASEAN commemorative summit on 25 January, reported The Hindu Businessline. The report added that India's plan comes at a time when ASEAN wants India to play a major raole in maritime security of the Indo-Pacific region.


Updated Date: Jan 24, 2018 15:17 PM

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