The power of 10
India all set to ramp up its engagement with ASEAN countries
Pageantry has been a common feature of every Republic Day function that India has organised since 1950. However, it has not been without a fairly large share of weighty political and diplomatic symbolism. From the time when New Delhi invited charismatic Indonesian president Sukarno to be the chief guest at the first Republic Day function, to the most recent, when it made Abu Dhabi crown Prince Sheikh mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan the chief guest at its 68th Republic Day function, each one brought its own heft to India’s national interest.
But the 2018 Republic Day would see a major departure from the past as all 10 heads of government/state from Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, instead of just one, are expected to grace the occasion as chief guests – a rare diplomatic initiative that New Delhi undertakes to commemorate 25 years of its engagement with the grouping that comprises Indonesia, Thailand, The Philippines, malaysia, Singapore, myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, cambodia and Brunei.
“meetings for Hos/hog [heads of state/heads of government] are [being] worked out through diplomatic channels” to facilitate their arrival as chief guests at the 68th Republic Day, ministry of external affairs spokesperson gopal Baglay told Governance Now.
Another senior MEA official, requesting anonymity, said invitation letters are being prepared and each head of government/state of ASEAN would be handed over the invitation card along with a personal letter from prime minister Narendra modi.
A day after the Republic Day parade, the Southeast Asian leaders would participate in the ASEAN-INDIA summit where they will be wearing Indian kurta-pajamas and sleeveless jacket.
The high-level source, however, refused to comment on whether china, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea – dialogue partners of ASEAN – would be invited for the summit that would be another big diplomatic event on the country’s soil after India-pacific Islanders’ meet held on August 21, 2015 and the october 26-30, 2015 India-africa summit.
Against the backdrop of the ongoing border tension between India and china, some experts view the move to host the ASEAN-INDIA summit as New Delhi’s attempt to consolidate its position among Southeast Asian countries
T- 90 (Bhishma) tanks trundle down Rajpath on Republic Day 2017