Taking an assertive step in its Act East Policy, India will invite the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), leaders for the Republic Day
parade and celebrations next year, reported Times of India
2018 will be the first time ever that so many leaders will together be chief guests at the parade which showcases India's military might.
It comes at a particularly tense time for China and India, who are engaged in a stand-off over their border that they share with Bhutan.
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are the members of Asean.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj last week highlighted the efforts of India to tighten its ties with ASEAN, while maintaining that New Delhi's engagement in South-East Asia is reflected by their 'Look East Policy' becoming 'Act East Policy'.
"We have enhanced our engagement in South-East Asia. This was reflected in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks in 2014 at the India-ASEAN Summit in Myanmar where he declared that India's 'Look East Policy' has become 'Act East Policy'," Swaraj said while addressing the ministerial session of 'Delhi Dialogue-IX'.
Swaraj reiterated the same, saying that India places ASEAN at heart of its 'Act East Policy' and center of its dream of an Asian century.
The External Affairs Minister stressed on the future focus areas of cooperation between India and ASEAN countries, describing them in terms of three Cs.
"Future focus areas of cooperation between ASEAN member states and India can be described in term of 3Cs- Commerce, Connectivity and Culture," she said.
According to the external affairs ministry, this year, 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'.
Since it renamed 'Look East' as 'Act East' in 2014, the NDA government has sought a more "dynamic" and "action-oriented" approach in its relations with not just Asean, but also the wider Asia-Pacific, with emphasis on Japan. However, Asean continues to be the central pillar of 'Act East', and the special summit next year in January is expected to further underscore the point.
India and Asean upgraded their relationship to a strategic partnership in 2012, and the government has of late sought to further impart strategic content to relations by focusing on stepping up defence and security ties, including with Vietnam.