New Delhi (AP) – Ten Southeast Asian leaders watched a parade and stunt performances as India celebrated the Friday, Jan. 26 anniversary of its national constitution taking effect.
Flags of the Southeast Asian group of countries fluttered at the 90-minute parade. The celebrations also included aerial displays and floats from Indian states.
India’s Constitution came into effect on Jan. 26, 1950. It won independence from British colonialists in 1947.
Leaders from Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia were invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to commemorate the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-India ties.
India looks to deepen bonds with its eastern neighbors amid its wariness over China’s growing influence in the region.
With competing territorial claims in the Asia-Pacific region, Modi said India favored a “rules-based order for the oceans and seas” and respect for international law. He was speaking at the plenary session of the India-ASEAN summit on Thursday, Jan. 25.
China’s building of artificial islands on disputed features in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety, has alarmed ASEAN. But China’s economic and political clout has also divided the bloc in how to deal with an assertive Beijing.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said there was “significant potential” for expanding trade and economic cooperation between India and ASEAN.
“Southeast Asia and India together represent a quarter of the world’s population, about 1.8 billion people, and a combined GDP of more than 4 and a half trillion US dollars,” he said.
A declaration at the end of the summit on Thursday reaffirmed the importance of promoting maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and overflight in the region. It also underlined the lawful uses of the seas and maritime commerce and called for peaceful resolutions of disputes.
In 2016, French President Francois Hollande was the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day parade. In 2015, former President Barack Obama viewed the display.