NEW DELHI: President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday said that India "greatly values" the role played by the ASEAN regional bloc in ensuring peace and prosperity in the region.
Speaking at a lunch he hosted in honour of the heads of state and government of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) who are here to attend the Commemorative Summit to mark 25 years of the India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership, Kovind said that relations between India and the regional bloc have come a long way since the establishment of the partnership.
The ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Stating that India's Act East policy reinforces its ancient links with southeast Asia through enhanced political, security, economic and cultural ties, Kovind said: "In this context, India greatly values ASEAN's role as a proponent of peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We iterate our support to ASEAN's unity and centrality. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with ASEAN in pursuit of a rules-based regional architecture that is open, inclusive, balanced and equitable."
He said that India and ASEAN are bound by history and by geography.
"Culture, commerce and connectivity - and ideas and thought - have woven us together in one common fabric," the President said.
"Our partnership is based on our shared heritage and is built on the foundation of strong people-to-people contacts, nurtured through the millennia. The theme of the Commemorative Summit, 'Shared Values, Common Destiny', is reflective of our desire to work for a shared future."
The 10 ASEAN heads of state and government who attended the President's lunch are Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesia President Joko Widodo, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.
All these leaders will attend the Commemorative Summit on Thursday evening which will be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi among others.
On Friday, in an unprecedented first, these leaders will collectively attend this year's Republic Day celebrations as guests of honour.