For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, celebrating Republic Day has also been about making a big statement at the world stage. Modi on Tuesday extended a warm welcome to heads of 10 member states of the ASEAN grouping to participate in the commemorative summit in India in January and also accompany him for the Republic Day parade.
Presence of Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, former US president Barack Obama, former French president Francois Hollande and UAE crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the January 26 function since 2014 sent Modi's graph soaring not only in India but even in other countries. Now, the presence of 10 heads of state at iconic Rajpath along with Modi–dressed in his turban–for the parade next year is again aimed at enhancing his personal appeal.
Modi made the request again during his opening speech at ASEAN Summit in Manila. “I look forward to a befitting culmination of the commemorative year and receiving you at the India-ASEAN Special Commemorative Summit on 25 January 2018 in New Delhi,” Prime Minister Modi said.
“The 1.25 billion people of India are keen to welcome the ASEAN leaders as our chief guests at India’s 69th Republic Day celebrations,” he added.
Modi government has been pushing for Act East Policy to enhance ties with the South Asian countries to counter-balance China's growing influence. The presence of 10 heads of state would send a message to India's neighbours China and Pakistan.
“Our wide-ranging agenda of cooperation under the third ASEAN-India Plan of Action has progressed well, covering the three crucial pillars of politico-security, economic and cultural partnership.”
“Maritime links established thousands of years ago between India and ASEAN countries have enabled our trade relations in the past and we have to work closely to further strengthen them. India assures the ASEAN of its steady support towards achieving a rules-based regional security architecture that best attests to the region’s interests and its peaceful development,” Modi added.
India has been pushing for a joint fight against terrorism, Modi stressed again during his Philippines visit several times. “We have individually strived very hard to fight terrorism and violent extremism. It is the time that we jointly address this challenge by intensifying cooperation in this crucial area,” Modi said.
The prime minister also held a bilateral meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines, the host of the summit.
What came as a pleasant surprise and indicator of India's influence was that a cultural programme put up included a dance drama from the Ramayana. The show signaled close linkages—cultural and historical—India shared entire South East Asia region.
Before the January Commemorative ASEAN Summit, India is also organising two other events, the India-ASEAN Connectivity Summit and a business summit.