Modi rolls out red carpet for Asean leaders

Grouping's leaders in Delhi for landmark summit and to attend India's Republic Day

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcoming Myanmar's civilian leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, yesterday, ahead of a meeting on the sidelines of the Asean-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcoming Myanmar's civilian leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, yesterday, ahead of a meeting on the sidelines of the Asean-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off India's diplomatic outreach to Asean countries with a bilateral meeting with Myanmar's Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, the first of such one-on-one meetings, as India and Asean mark 25 years of ties.

The two leaders shook hands and posed for the photographers before going in for talks at Hyderabad House.

"The two leaders had a productive discussion on intensifying bilateral cooperation," tweeted Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar afterwards.

India views Myanmar, with which it shares a 1,643km-long border, as a bridge to the rest of South-east Asia, and is involved in building a trilateral highway linking Myanmar and Thailand to the north-eastern part of India.

Ms Suu Kyi, who studied and lived in India, is among nine Asean leaders who arrived yesterday for the Asean-India Commemorative Summit and to attend the annual 69th Republic Day parade as chief guests tomorrow.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the other leaders arrived to a warm welcome in capital city New Delhi .

"Welcome to India Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, for the Asean-India Commemorative Summit. Warmly received by Minister of State for Women and Child Development Shri Virendra Kumar," tweeted Mr Kumar, as he did for the other Asean leaders as they touched down.

Only Indonesia President Joko Widodo is scheduled to arrive today.

India and Asean - consisting of Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam - are currently marking 25 years of dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction and five years of strategic partnership.

Ties between the grouping and India have grown over the past couple of years in recognition of growing opportunities for cooperation in many areas. Mr Modi has pledged to deepen India's ties with South-east Asia, scaling up the India Look East policy to the Act East policy at the 12th Asean-India summit in 2014.

Underscoring this, the theme of this year's commemorative summit is "Shared Values, Common Destiny", as India and Asean seek to deepen ties amid their common challenges and opportunities in Asia.

Separately, at a leaders' retreat today, Mr Modi and leaders of the 10 Asean countries will also discuss maritime security and cooperation.

Mr Modi - who has rolled out the red carpet for the leaders as part of the diplomatic outreach to the South-east Asian countries - is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with PM Lee today and with the other six Asean leaders over the next two days.

Amid other events to mark India-Asean ties, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj inaugurated a park in Tughlaq Road yesterday named the Bharat Asean Maitri Park.

Traffic restrictions are in place as Central Delhi became a hive of VIP movement since yesterday and over the next two days.

The Republic Day parade tomorrow is an annual event that showcases India's military might and cultural prowess.

Apart from a display of the nation's latest weaponry, which includes a flypast of fighter jets and attack helicopters, and marching contingents, it will also feature dancers and floats from different states of the country.

This year, India is showcasing Nirbhay - a locally developed long-range subsonic cruise missile - and two floats dedicated to India-Asean ties.

In a series of tweets, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also acknowledged India's defence ties with Asean countries.

For instance, defence ties between India and Singapore included bilateral naval, air force and army joint training exercises.

Singapore, currently the Asean chair, has also been instrumental over the years in championing closer ties between India and Asean, she noted.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline Modi rolls out red carpet for Asean leaders. Subscribe