10 Asean leaders to be chief guests at India's Republic Day for first time

PM Narendra Modi inspecting a guard of honour during an event to commission the INS Kalvari Scorpene-class submarine, on Dec 14.
PM Narendra Modi inspecting a guard of honour during an event to commission the INS Kalvari Scorpene-class submarine, on Dec 14.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI • In a first, all Asean leaders will be chief guests at India's annual Republic Day parade on Jan 26 to mark the silver jubilee of India's relations with the bloc.

Leaders from the 10 Asean member nations - Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - have accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's invitation to attend the 69th Republic Day parade at the historic Rajpath, where India's military prowess and cultural heritage will be on display.

This is the first time that leaders from a bloc, instead of an individual country, will be the chief guests at the parade. In the recent past, the signal honour has been accorded to leaders such as then US President Barack Obama and then French President Francois Hollande.

The acceptance of the invitation by all Asean members is an indication of the growing importance of their relations with India - both as as a bloc and bilaterally.

Since the adoption of the Constitution in 1950, this is the first time there will be more than one chief guest at the parade, during which an Asean-India tableau will be displayed. Artists from Asean nations will perform Ramayana, the epic that connects all these nations.

While addressing the 15th India-Asean summit in Manila last month, Mr Modi had said the 1.25 billion people of India were keen to welcome the Asean leaders.

India's "Look East" policy, rechristened "Act East" after Mr Modi became prime minister, is indicative of the country's proactive approach towards Asean countries to check China's growing clout.

India is also being encouraged by other nations such as Singapore to play an active role in the region, given China's aggressive stance in the South China Sea and regional waters.

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", The Statesman reported.

ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2017, with the headline '10 Asean leaders to be chief guests at India's Republic Day for first time'. Print Edition | Subscribe