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Vietnam-India relations are based on historical and cultural affinities: Indian Ambassador
Ngo Minh 08:14, 2023/12/14
Indian Ambassador Sandeep Arya is optimistic about the prospects of cooperation between Vietnam and India in all fields.

The 11th Vietnam-India People's Friendship Festival has kicked off in Chennai with the aim of strengthening friendship at all levels under the bilateral Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

On this occasion, Indian Ambassador Sandeep Arya talks to The Hanoi Times about the vision of cooperation between the two countries and partnership between Hanoi and Indian localities.

In the context of India's "Look East" policy being heavily deployed and evolving into the new period of "Act East," what's the significance of Vietnam in India's strategic priorities in Southeast Asia?

As our comprehensive strategic partner with longstanding, close ties marked by mutual trust, understanding and appreciation, Vietnam is a strategic partner in Southeast Asia and the entire Indo-Pacific region under India’s “Act East” Policy. Our sound economic growth, national development imperatives and similar international perspectives amid global complexities generate further synergy for our mutual collaboration and joint efforts in the coming years.

Apart from our cooperation in the India-ASEAN comprehensive strategic partnership and the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, the two countries also coordinate and cooperate in numerous regional and international organizations. Under the Global South framework, we were pleased that the President of Vietnam participated among a select group of leaders in the Voice of the Global South Summit hosted virtually by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2023 in the context of our G20 Presidency this year.

 Indian Ambassador Sandeep Arya speaks at a meeting jointly held by Invest Global and the Indian Embassy in Vietnam. Photo: VNA

Inter-local cooperation 

The two countries have just celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations. Could you tell us about some outstanding achievements in Vietnam-India inter-local cooperation?

The steady and unwavering friendship between India and Vietnam over the last seven decades is rooted in not only strong government-to-government or leader-level relations but also deep affinity and appreciation at the level of the people and the growing business-to-business ties between us.

Regarding cooperation in tourism, in 2022, Indian visitors to Vietnam reached nearly 138,000 visitors, ranking third among international tourist markets to Hanoi. There are currently two Vietnamese airlines operating direct flights from Hanoi to India: Vietjet Air and Vietnam Airlines. Along with increasingly open visa policies, this is also a favorable condition for the growth of Indian visitors to Hanoi in the near future.

Currently, the relationship between Hanoi and Indian partners is not only in the political field but has expanded to investment, trade and tourism.

In recent years, province-level cooperation has become an additional platform for developing closer relations between the two countries.

In 2023, delegations from the major city of Cantho and provinces of Lao Cai, Can Tho, Gia Lai, Khanh Hoa, An Giang, Ninh Thuan, Phu Yen, Tien Giang, Binh Dinh, Ba Ria Vung Tau, and others have visited India to engage with provincial and other authorities. Similarly, delegations from various provinces in India, such as Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Telengana have traveled to Viet Nam for economic, business, tourism and other exchanges.

Embassy of India in Hanoi, Consulate General of India in Ho Chi Minh City and Indian Business Chambers separately organize joint exchanges with various provinces in Vietnam.

Ten community projects, ‘Quick Impact Projects,’ implemented annually in various provinces across Vietnam, are interesting initiatives to support the construction of school facilities for healthcare, rural infrastructure, and social welfare centers.

In the last few years, we have completed 37 such projects in 33 provinces throughout Vietnam, and nine other projects are currently at an advanced stage of implementation in various provinces.

We are glad that technical training and education opportunities under our ITEC and ICCR scholarships are being expanded to various provincial authorities in Vietnam.

Similarly, province-level participation in trade fairs and business-to-business exchanges has expanded the reach of trade and business cooperation more widely, such as promoting OCOP/ODOP products, MSMEs (medium, small and micro enterprises) and tourism at a broader level.

We plan to develop these province-level economic developmental and cultural ties in the coming years.

An art performance at the 11th Indo-Vietnamese People's Friendship Festival held in Chennai on December 2-6. Photo: VNA

How many localities in Vietnam and India have established twinning relationships and signed cooperation agreements?

Normally, the Indian Embassy and Consulate General take the lead in facilitating cooperation and exchanges between the provinces in India and Vietnam. Several provinces in Vietnam have such arrangements through diplomatic missions for cooperation with regions in India. Our focus is on encouraging economic and business engagements, participation in trade fairs, and developing tourism and cultural ties among provinces in India and Vietnam.

Vietnamese and Indian localities cooperate in culture, heritage, and people-to-people exchanges. Please name some outstanding cooperation programs and assess the importance of mutual understanding and people-to-people exchanges in the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Enormous respect, affection and support among the people of India and Vietnam is rooted in the shared heritage of Buddhist thoughts, Yoga, civilizational connections witnessed in numerous monuments spread across dozens of provinces in Vietnam, and the interest of our people in each other’s culture and arts.

Every year, about 50 university-level scholarships and 200 short-term training courses in India enable the sharing of experiences and facilities and exposure to our society and culture to Vietnamese students and officials. Dozens of cultural performances are organized by troupes and artists from India and Vietnam annually.

Cinema and television series are promising areas for further work to enhance mutual understanding and awareness between the two countries through entertainment and broadcasting. Heritage conservation as another active area of bilateral cooperation to conserve our civilizational linkages.

It was heartening that International Day of Yoga was celebrated this year across 35 locations throughout Vietnam. Growing tourist travel backed by over 50 direct flights per week between India and Viet Nam is adding another dimension to people-to-people exchanges.

Indian Ambassador Sandeep Arya talks to the Vietnamese press about cooperation between the two countries at a meeting this year. Photo: Ngo Minh/The Hanoi Times

Over the years, the Indian Institute of Archaeology has also cooperated with Quang Nam Province to restore tower groups A, H, and K at My Son Sanctuary. Could you please tell us about the progress of the project?

Archaeological Survey of India completed the restoration and conservation of the A, H, and K group of temples at My Son sanctuary in Quang Nam Province after five years of elaborate work by Indian specialists. The restored site was handed over to Vietnamese authorities in December 2022.

Annually, over 400,000 tourists are estimated to visit this historical site dating back over 13 centuries. Three more heritage conservation projects in Vietnam-Dong Duong Buddhist monastery in Quang Nam, Nhan Cham tower in Phu Yen and F group of temples in My Son – are planned to be taken up for restoration work by Indian specialists in the near future.

What are your impressions of Vietnamese culture, nature and people? Could you describe in detail your most memorable experience in Vietnam?

Over the year of my stay in Vietnam, I have been amazed by the deep similarities in the values, beliefs, customs, traditions, and spiritual thoughts of India and Vietnam. These are reflected in the bond and day-to-day life within families, regard for elders, praying for ancestors, respect for deities, and extended families coming together to celebrate festivals.

The similarity of the very hospitable nature of the two people, their openness, friendliness and warmth in both countries is also quite stark.

As a rapidly developing country, the level of vibrancy and energy visible among the people, particularly the youth in Vietnam, as well as their aspiration and mobility to engage with the wider world, often reminds me of India and Indian youth.

The most moving and humbling impression is the deep love, kindness and generosity towards India, which is so widely visible all across this friendly nation of Viet Nam. Preserving and nurturing these affinities and similarities deserve continuous efforts I intend to exert during my term in Vietnam.

Thanks for your time!

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