PETALING JAYA: India plans to woo Asean member nations with “mega connectivity” projects and initiatives that will rival those offered by China when it hosts leaders of all 10 countries at its Republic Day celebration later this month.
It hopes this will pave the way for a grand roadmap on maritime security and cooperation.
New Delhi-based The Hindu newspaper reported yesterday that heads of state will witness a grand display of India’s might in weaponry and armaments during the annual parade event on Jan 26.
It cited sources as saying that the India-Asean Summit, which will be held the day before, will see the leaders being given a detailed presentation on India’s connectivity and maritime security plans by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to the sources, the idea was for India to “catch up” with China’s speed and magnitude in implementing its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), by enhancing its own connectivity to the region with road and port projects.
“In fact, with the escalating aggressive posture that is being taken by China in the South China Sea, as it continues to reclaim islands and convert them into military bases, Asean is increasingly seeking a greater security role to be played by India by way of large-scale connectivity,” the report said.
It said the blueprint of Asean-India connectivity, prepared in 2010 when India promoted its “Look East” policy under the previous government, was being continued by the present administration under Modi as the “Act East” policy.
Modi will also give a detailed update on some of the construction activities engaged by India in Asean countries that are under way, such as the India-Thailand trilateral highway, from Manipur to Bangkok, which cuts through Myanmar.
However, India’s plans are still small compared with the US$180-billion (RM720 billion) BRI projects, the report said.
Modi was reported by Indian media as saying on Dec 31 that the Republic Day celebration would be “remembered through the ages” because New Delhi would host leaders of all Asean countries as chief guests for the first time.
“This time, not one but 10 chief guests would grace the Republic Day. This is unprecedented in India’s history,” he had said.
Modi also said 2017 was special for Asean and India because it marked the 50th anniversary of the Southeast Asian bloc and 25 years of India’s partnership with the grouping.
Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to attend the celebration and summit.