The countdown to the commemorative summit marking 25 years of India's ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has begun with the leaders of all 10 Asean nations arriving in New Delhi.
India will host the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi on 25th and 26th January. Leaders of 10 countries attending the summit will also be a part of the Republic Day celebrations at India Gate on 26th January.
While the actual summit is scheduled for this evening, bilateral talks have begun on the sidelines. Amid uncertainty over the security situation in the South China Sea, where there has been no let-up in Chinese construction in disputed waters, India and Vietnam discussed maritime cooperation on Wednesday and vowed to further expand their defence ties.
India's involvement in building Vietnam's defence capabilities figured prominently in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with his counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc ahead of the India-Asean summit.
Myanmar's state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also had bilateral meetings with Modi. According to external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, Modi and Suu Kyi had a productive discussion on intensifying bilateral cooperation, including follow-up on "key decisions" taken during Modi's visit to Myanmar in September last year.
They discussed India's development programme for Rakhine in Myanmar state which saw an exodus of Rohingya Muslims after a military crackdown. Myanmar began accepting the return of refugees on Tuesday under an agreement it has reached with Bangladesh.
Both leaders reiterated their shared view that the situation in Rakhine had a developmental as well as a security dimension. India is helping Myanmar bring about overall socio-economic development in the state by undertaking both infrastructure and socio-economic projects.
Modi will have bilateral meetings with other Asean leaders today before the summit scheduled for the evening.
The theme of the commemorative summit that is to start in New Delhi on Thursday is 'Shared Values, Common Destiny', highlighting the commonalities between Asia's third largest economy and the economically vibrant bloc of Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The first to arrive today was Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, followed by Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Myanmar state counsellor Aung Saan Suu Kyi, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Brunei Sultan Hassan al Bolkiah, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak and Laos Prime Minister Thongluin Sisolith. Indonesian president Joko Widodo was the last to arrive today (See: Asean leaders begin arriving in Delhi for summit).
All the leaders will be guests at India's Republic Day parade on Friday.