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Welcome euphoria over the east

Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented ten leaders of ASEAN as guests at the 69th Republic Day celebrations. The Modi government has been taking continuous efforts at extending New Delhi’s hand of cooperation to valuable eastern neighbours. This can be clearly inferred from both the photo-op at the conclusion of the historic ASEAN-India summit in New Delhi on 25 January and the visuals from the tastefully decorated platform for the guests to witness the two-hour long Republic Day parade. 

Modi has been winning new friends in Latin America, Africa, the Gulf countries, Southeast Asia, Japan and Australia.

The ASEAN countries have been flou-rishing in social and economic parameters. Their record with their compact populations, linguistic cohesion and enterprise, fortified by strong, autocratic leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, Mahatir Mohammed and Suharto, was often touted as the ASEAN model of development. Their proximity to India, centuries of commerce and trade links with this country and sizeable population of people of Indian origin, were favourable factors for forging  closer relationships. ASEAN with a population of 644.5 mn and GDP of $ 2.72 tn is of growing importance for trade and commerce. Two-way trade between ASEAN and India amounted to $72 bn, with $ 27.59 bn of exports and $ 38.44 bn of imports plus invisibles. 

Modi, with his flair for forging friendships, has been attempting to improve relations with global leaders. India has vastly improved relations with the south Asian countries except Pakistan. The ASEAN-India summit is seen by some observers as a continuation of the initiative for the four-nation Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) with Japan, Australia, US and India aimed at ensuring peace in the Asia Pacific region, with special focus on navigational rights in the vital sea lanes. 


‘Woman’-power to the fore...

The display of India’s prowess in defence at the Republic Day parade, could also symbolically signal the prospects for export of defence equipment appropriate to the needs of the countries of the region.  It was the first Republic Day organised by Nirmala Sitharaman as Defence Minister. In a short time, she has exhibited new initiatives to streamline the ministry’s work. The parade also showcased women power. Among the displays was the breath-taking Seema Bhawani.

Prime Minister Modi presented US President Barack Obama, French President François Hollande and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as chief guests in the previous three republic day celebrations. He had leaders of the ASEAN this time around. The logical extension of this appears to be leaders from the African countries as special guests for the 70th Republic Day celebrations in 2019. 

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