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India gathers ASEAN leaders, plans closer SE Asia maritime ties to counter China

India is gathering the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Regional Cooperation (ASEAN) for a summit on Thursday to promote maritime security in a region dominated by China, Reuters reported. India has been pursuing an ‘Act East’ policy of developing political and economic ties with Southeast Asia, while China’s trade with ASEAN was more than six times India’s in 2016-17 at $470 million. China has also expanded its presence in South Asia, building ports and power plants in countries around India’s periphery. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited the leaders of all 10 ASEAN nations to join him in the Republic Day celebrations on Friday. This would be the biggest ever gathering of foreign leaders at the parade that showcases military might and cultural diversity.