India will emphasize that it is attuned to what is believed to be the "ASEAN way of doing business" and committed to the idea of the "Centrality" of ASEAN

NEW DELHI: With a running theme of "commerce, connectivity and culture", the Indian government is setting up multiple connection points with ASEAN countries as New Delhi gears up for the ASEAN-India commemorative summit and the biggest ever group of chief guests at the Republic Day celebrations.

The ASEAN-India summit, to mark 25 years of a partnership, will be an occasion for India to showcase itself as an attractive alternative to China which is the overwhelming power in the region. India will emphasize that it is attuned to what is believed to be the "ASEAN way of doing business" and committed to the idea of the "centrality" of ASEAN. Sources said it was important to emphasize these principles at a time when China's exercise of aggressive power appeared to be weakening ASEAN.

The ASEAN-India celebrations kicked off with a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines in 2017. The new chair of ASEAN is Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore. Modi had personally invited each of the ASEAN leaders during the last ASEAN summit in Manila in November.

Sources said, "We share maritime and land boundaries with Myanmar other ASEAN countries, have strong historical ties and cultural ties which is clear by the presence of Buddhism in so many east Asian countries." Government sources said this was an important time for India to ramp up engagement with the region "at a time when we are seeing new US and China policies in this region."

January started with the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Singapore, to be followed by a meeting on forestry and agriculture, Dhamma-Dharma conference in Rajgir, Hackathon and stat-up festival, media and business meets. The summit itself will get underway with a preparatory meeting of senior officials on January 23, as well as a ASEAN-India business council and business conclave. A park in Tughlaq Avenue New Delhi will be dedicated to India-ASEAN friendship as well as a textile event on the woev relationship of the region with India.

Sushma Swaraj will give out ASEAN India youth awards, while the Indian government will be hosting 500 students from ASEAN countries to experience India by traveling through Delhi, Agra, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune on the 23rd.

The summit itself will be held on the 25th, which will include commemorative stamps. Concurrently, a Ramayana festival will explore the cultural linkages between India and ASEAN, since the epic is as much a part of ASEAN heritage as Indian. The celebrations will go on even after the Republic Day parade where leaders from all 10 ASEAN countries will be on the dais as chief guests, ending with an ASEAN-northeast India sports festival in Guwahati and a film festival in Goa.