China, whose trade with the Asean was more than six times India’s in 2016-17 at $470 million, has greater influence in the region.
China is pushing for the One Belt One Road (OBOR) which has roped in several countries in the massive infrastructure construction project that is destined to project Beijing as the economic and political super power in the region.
India pales in comparison against China’s influence since China already has its grip on new ports and power plants as well as rail projects in the Asean member countries.
China is also very strong in countries around India’s periphery, such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and spurring New Delhi to seek new allies.
Nevertheless, Business Times said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited the leaders of all ten Asean nations to join him in the Republic Day celebrations on Friday (today) in the biggest ever gathering of foreign leaders at the parade that showcases military might and cultural diversity.
The leaders, who include Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, will hold talks on maritime cooperation and security, the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.
One wonders how did the other Asean leaders accept the presence of Aung San Suu Kyi in this maritime security talk since Malaysia, Indonesia were highly critical of the latter’s role in the Rohingya diaspora.
Both India and the Southeast Asia nations have stressed the need for freedom of navigation and open seas but India’s apparent strong naval ties with countries such as Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, is perhaps a bit too little, too late to counter China.