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Strengthening ties in counter-terrorism, security and trade will be among the key discussion points during the India-ASEAN Summit that will see the participation of leaders of all the ten ASEAN countries, who will also be the chief guests at the Republic Day parade. The highest level of participation at the summit on January 25, to mark the 25 years of Indo-ASEAN ties, comes in the backdrop of increasing Chinese economic and military assertiveness in the region. Some experts feel that the meet can be an opportunity for India to present itself as a powerful ally to these countries in the strategic areas of trade and connectivity. The visit of the leaders of the ten ASEAN countries to be the chief guests at the Republic Day parade is "unprecedented" and a "landmark" event, Preeti Saran, secretary (east), Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters here. Saran said the leaders will start arriving from January 24. There will be a leaders' retreat during which the leaders will have a "free and frank" discussion on January 25.
Following this, a plenary session will take place on the same day, she said. Leaders from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos and Brunei will attend the summit. Spouses of some of the leaders are also expected to come and a special programme is also being chalked out for them, said Anurag Bhushan, joint-secretary (ASEAN). When asked whether security and counter-terrorism will be discussed, Saran said these issues "always remain on agenda". In the run-up to the summit, various programmes in different areas ranging from culture to trade have been organised by India. Saran said Ramayana is one of the common cultural link between India and Southeast Asia, and troupes from ten ASEAN countries have also been invited. In addition, commemorative stamps based on Ramayana will also be released.