ASEAN-INDIA summit: India to woo ASEAN leaders with Ramayana


Agencies, New Delhi As Ramayana remains a powerful, enchanting and popular epic tale to date in almost all ASEAN countries, the forthcoming ASEAN-India Summit here on January 25-26 will witness a number of Ramayana troupes from ASEAN nations performing before the top 10 leaders of these countries. ``Ramayana remains an important epic and theme which is played in all ASEAN countries. It is a historical and civilisational connection of ASEAN countries with India,’’ said Preeti Saran, Secretary (East) External Affairs Ministry here on Wednesday. The reliance on the immensely popular and inspirational epic saga of Ramayana will be part of India’s soft diplomacy in wooing ASEAN leaders all of whom will be guests of honour at Republic Day celebrations on January 26. The annual Republic Day parade at the sprawling Raj Path which showcases India’s military might and cultural diversity will be witnessed by all the 10 ASEAN leaders, a first for this year’s parade. Giving details of ASEAN-India Summit, Ms. Saran told journalists that the leaders would begin arriving in the Capital on January 24 and the President will hold a banquet in their honour. All the leaders will have an exclusive retreat at the Rashtrapati Bhawan where closed-door discussions will be held with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. ASEAN member countries are also likely to discuss mega connectivity plans and simultaneously clearing the decks for a roadmap on maritime security and cooperation. As China goes ahead with its ``Belt and Road Initiative’’ and aggressive posturing in the South China Sea, India is keen to make up with enhanced network of roads and maritime security. ASEAN member-countries are also desirous of India playing a greater role in integration of the region, people-to-people contacts and also in ensuring enhanced security in the region while pushing its ``Act East’’ policy. Discussions with ASEAN leaders are also likely to touch upon India-Thailand trilateral highway which begins in Manipur and ends in Bangkok while passing through Myanmar. It is likely to be completed by 2019-end. Liberalisation of air services with all ASEAN nations may also be on the cards. Responding to a question on South China sea, the MEA official said that India favoured freedom of navigation. While in Manila to attend the ASEAN-India business and investment summit in November, Mr. Modi had said: “India’s Look East policy puts this region at the centre of our engagement. So, connectivity with ASEAN by land, sea and air remains our priority. The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. The summit will have ``Shared Values, Common Destiny’’ as its theme and mark completion of 25 years of ASEAN-India relations and 15 years of Summit level interaction and five years of Strategic partnership. There will be 36 major activities in the run-up to the Summit and 16 major events.There are 30 Dialogue Mechanisms between India and ASEAN, cutting across various sectors.