Asean leaders on Republic Day guest list as India pushes its Act East policy
India’s 69th Republic Day celebrations on January 26 will have 10 special guests instead of the customary one, and that means the usual elaborate preparations have been replaced with even more elaborate ones.
The guests, leaders of the 10 Asean countries include Presidents, Prime Ministers, a King, and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
To accommodate the leaders and their spouses on the dais at Rajpath, alongside the President, Vice President and Prime Minister of India, the Central Public Works Department is erecting a 95-feet long dais instead of the usual 40-feet one. Hindustan Times learnt that eight of the heads of state will be here with their partners
To befit the occasion, which also marks the 25th anniversary of the India-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) partnership – the leaders are attending a commemorative summit in New Delhi on January 25 – the government is preparing to showcase its so-called Act East policy in all its splendour. This refers to an effort to grow trade and other relationships with Asean countries, and also develop India’s North East.
The parade on Republic Day is expected to feature an Asean-India tableau, with artistes from member countries performing the Ramayana. The Asean countries are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
According to government officials familiar with the matter, each of the ten leaders will arrive at Rajpath in separate convoys and be received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“As of now, it has been decided that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, which is the chair of Asean for 2018, will be seated between Prime Minister Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind. A final call on the seating arrangement will be taken by the ministry of external affairs shortly,” one of the officials added on condition of anonymity.
In the evening, the leaders will be hosted at the President’s traditional ‘At Home’ reception.
On January 25, the President is expected to host a gala lunch for the guests at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
“Besides Indian dishes, the highlight of the lunch will be South Asian cuisines. The idea is to give the leaders a taste of local flavours from the Asean countries. The chefs at Rashtrapati Bhavan are busy giving final touches to the menu that will have Thai, Burmese and Malay dishes among others,” a second government official said, also on condition of anonymity.
Each of the 10 leaders is expected to have individual meetings with the Prime Minister, this official added.
In the evening, Prime Minister Modi is expected to take a stroll with the visiting leaders in the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s famed Mughal Gardens, according to a third government official.