India rolls out red carpet for ASEAN leaders

India rolls out red carpet for ASEAN leaders

India on Wednesday rolled out the red carpet for the 10 South-East Asian leaders, as they arrived to hold an ASEAN-India commemorative summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The ASEAN leaders will also attend the Republic Day ceremony on Friday, when they will join President Ram Nath Kovind to watch India's military prowess on the Rajpath in New Delhi.

The participation of all the 10 South-East Asian leaders in the Republic Day ceremony in New Delhi is being seen as a major outreach by India to a region often perceived to be the backyard of China. Modi and the ASEAN leaders will issue the 'Delhi Declaration' after the summit on Thursday, taking the relations to a new height, sources told DH.

The Delhi Declaration, according to sources, will reaffirm New Delhi's support to the ASEAN's centrality in evolving a rules-based security architecture for Indo-Pacific. It will send out a tacit message to China, which has often been accused of undermining international rules, particularly in its territorial disputes with several of its maritime neighbours, including many ASEAN nations.

India's boundary dispute with China also came under focus last year when the two neighbouring nations got engaged in a military face-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam, was the first ASEAN leader to land in New Delhi on Wednesday. He was followed by Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of Lao PDR.

Lim Jock Hoi, secretary general of ASEAN, is already in New Delhi.

The prime minister on Wednesday had a bilateral meeting with the State Counsellor of Myanmar, as well as the leaders of Vietnam and the Philippines. He will have similar bilateral meetings with other ASEAN leaders on Thursday and Friday.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday inaugurated the India-ASEAN Friendship Park in Tughlaq Crescent in New Delhi. She was joined by the ASEAN secretary general at the inaugural ceremony.

India is keen to enhance its strategic ties with the ASEAN across the 3Cs – Commerce, Connectivity and Culture.

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