NEW DELHI (AP) — Southeast Asian leaders celebrated ties with India on Thursday, as New Delhi looks to deepen bonds with its eastern neighbors amid China’s ever-growing influence.
The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, met in New Delhi to observe 25 years of ties between India and the 10-nation bloc. The leaders will also be guests of honor at Friday’s Republic Day celebrations, an important diplomatic distinction for India.
India has been carefully boosting its diplomatic profile in recent years, amid its wariness over China’s growth into a major world power.
But in Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying scoffed at Indian news reports that the leaders would discuss countering China’s influence.
“Recently, the Indian media seems to have made a habit of linking every move Indian leaders make with China. I wonder what Indian leaders think about this?” he told reporters. “I feel that the Indian media, in making such speculations, is showing how little confidence they have in themselves, and their lack of trust in China.”
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the prime ministers of Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are among those in India for the celebrations.