The Act East policy is now in flow. The remarkable gesture of inviting leaders of 10 ASEAN nation as guests of honour at the Republic Day is a manifestation of our engagement with South East Asia. It will emphasise “Shared Values Common Destiny”, a theme slightly at variance with the “Shared Values in a Fractured World”, at Davos. The fact that ASEAN leaders will be seen together with Prime Minister Narendra Modi presents an appropriate image for the present world.
The India-ASEAN summit marks the 25th anniversary of the engagement, the 15th year of our Dialogue Partnership and fifth anniversary of the Strategic Partnership. The theme of the retreat of the summit is maritime security, which is a subject that attracts constant attention. However, the underlying engagement is economic. And this requires careful attention and nurturing as a growing strategic synergy and understanding must not be impervious to the challenge posed by China India and ASEAN house a quarter of the world’s population and the region is relatively peaceful. Stability with consistent economic growth in the region makes it attractive to all its partners. ASEAN is today at the centre of the Indo-Pacific as a strategic concept but has been in focus for economic reasons for much longer, beginning with the traditional monsoon-led trade between India and South East Asian countries.