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ASEAN leaders in Republic Day: Is it a diplomatic move to counter China?

By Chennabasaveshwar
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    The arrival of 10 ASEAN leaders is a historic day in Independent India. These leaders will take part in the two-day ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in the national capital beginning Thursday. The event will mark 25 years of India's ties with the Southeast Asian bloc.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the ASEAN Heads of State/Governments at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI Photo

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi government's decision to have ASEAN leaders as chief guests seems to be a posture to counter China's growing clout in South Asia.

    Mohan Guruswamy told OneIndia, "Inviting and getting invitations accepted doesn't them they are lining up with India against China. Asean is much too economically integrated with China to go against it. But they (ASEAN) too would like to hedge their bets and throw the Chinese off balance a bit. If diplomacy is all about the show then this is a good show. Alas, diplomacy is mostly about hard realities."

    It sounds true since China continues to be the largest trading partner of ASEAN, and ASEAN is China's third-largest trade partner, fourth largest export market and second largest source of imports.

    [Republic Day 2018: Here's list of tableau on display in parade]

    Dr. Anshuman Behera, Assistant professor, at NIAS, sees the arrival of ASEAN leaders in India to commemorate India-ASEAN summit can be viewed as a positive step towards shaping the 'Act East' policy of India. It is nothing less than a historic moment for both India and the ASEAN countries.

    He said, "This will definitely strengthen India's strategic interests in South East Asia. Considering China's aggressive posturing against India in recent times India's stronger ties with ASEAN countries will be of great significance. The fact that leaders of ten ASEAN countries will take part in India's Republic Day celebrations is a testimony to India's economic and diplomatic endeavours."

    However, China downplayed ASEAN leaders attendance. When asked about the gathering of ASEAN leaders to attend the Republic Day function, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, said, "We hope all countries can work together for peace, stability and development of the region."

    "We can all play a constructive role in this regard," she said criticising media reports that the Indian move to invite these leaders was aimed at blunting Chinas influence.

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