Tomorrow India will be celebrating its 69th Republic Day with heads of government 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) making a history and changing the trend. Republic day celebrations that generally celebrate pride of a sovereign nation is based on the concept of nationalism. But this republic day celebration will be much more than celebrating our nationhood. It will also be a great boost to regional harmony.

After Davos influential speech by Narendra Modi, it is proven that India is eccentric to establishment of peace, prosperity, balance and harmony in the region. And “Act East” policy marked on the republic day further enhances India’ willingness to play the role of a desired anchor.

The ASEAN leaders participating in the Republic Day parade are President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha of Thailand, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, the Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos and Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia.

As India progresses towards its responsibility of fostering regional harmony, it is well aware of the challenges it has to face from hostile rivals such as Pakistan and China.  The close association that has developed in ASEAN 2018 with various defence and strategic ties will certainly be a great balancing act towards imperialist and expansionist tendencies of China.

The region can be bifurcated today between two countries in context to Chinese diplomacy. First ones who have no option but to stay friends with China because they are bullied by it and others who stand tall against China. India has a close bond with South East Asia due to its common cultural and economic heritage. However being small many countries despite being independent have to succumb the pressure of hegemonic China. But as India is now taking a foot forward with its “Act East” policy the phenomenon is likely to change. As with this China’s rising influence will be balanced by India in the region.

The balanced equation will further enable small and developing nations to take independent decision by seeking other options rather than giving up to the regional hegemon. Further bolstering rationalistic democratic principles and development. Though Pakistan may still be an issue in the west part of the country but that is also to tone down after China’s rising powers are balanced in the region.

With ASEAN getting India deeply involved in maritime security, commerce and multilateral India will further need to stimulate connectivity corridors with Southeast Asia and simultaneously champion unity which has frequently been battered by China’s divide-and-rule tactics.