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Amid standoff with China, India to invite heads of ASEAN nations for Republic Day parade

Amid the ongoing standoff with China at India-China-Bhutan tri-junction, India has decided to invite the heads of 10 ASEAN nations for the Republic Day parade, 2018. The move will give a further boost to India’s Act East policy.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organisation comprising ten Southeast Asian states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is for the first time ever that leaders of so many states will be the chief guests in Republic Day, which showcases India’s military might.

It could be noted that 4 ASEAN countries – Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei – are currently engaged in disputes with China in the South China Sea. Philippines dragged China to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague over the dispute. The ICJ ruled against China in July last year and observed that China had violated international law in South China Sea.

India and ASEAN countries are marking 25 years of dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction and five years of strategic partnership through “shared values”, and “common destiny”, reads a statement by Ministry of External Affairs.

India and ASEAN nations have successfully forged strong strategic partnership in areas of economy, defence and security. The Modi government has been emphasising on a “dynamic” and “action-oriented” relations with ASEAN countries.

At the India-ASEAN Delhi Dialogue, held in 4 July, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said 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,” Swaraj had said.

Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh in his reply to the Parliament on 23 December, 2015 had said that there was a clear intent to engage with the ASEAN countries not just to promote economic cooperation and cultural ties, but also to develop a “strategic relationship”.

“On strategic issues, we have increasing convergence on security interests with key partners both in bilateral and multilateral format. Closer cooperation in combating terrorism, collaborating for peace and stability in the region and promotion of maritime security based on international norms and laws are being pursued,” Singh had said.

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