Vice President Hamid Ansari, whose last engagement in his 4-day visit to Vietnam was an Indian community reception hosted by Ambassador Ranjit Rae on Thursday afternoon, described the community as an important agent to expand the economic, commercial and technological ties with the Association of South East Asian Nations, Asean. Around 300 Indians from various backgrounds attended the reception.
Relations between Asean and India, Ansari said, is of critical importance for the stability and prosperity in the region.
The composition of the Indian community today, represented by individual professionals, reflects the desire to go beyond traditional trade patterns, he said. The setting up of a Tagore Chair in the University of Ho Chi Minh, along with the Indian cultural centre due to come up in capital Hanoi this year, shows a desire to address the cultural concerns of the Indian community most of who have retained their passports.
The Indian community in south and central Vietnam is a small, close-knit one, numbering just about 1500, that is focused on business and cultural activities.
Summing up his visit to Vietnam, which he has repeatedly described as the pillar of India's Look East policy, Ansari told an onboard media conference during his return flight that he had spent "very useful, productive and delightful days" in the south-east Asian nation. The talks with the political leadership in Hanoi on Tuesday, he said, were "positive" and reinforced the level of friendship between the two nations.
"We will continue our across the board discussions. We will give them what they want subject to our limitations," the vice president said.
About his engagement with the Indian community earlier, Ansari said the government will help them with the work they are doing in the country. Incidentally, most of the Indians are professionals working for multinations and not permanent residents. A handful of the latter have Vietnamese spouses, the most famous case being that of Miss Vietnam who is married to an Indian.
The ambassador's reception to the Vice President too reflected this interaction, with a number of friends of India from the Vietnamese community attending it, including Huynh Thanh Lap, standing member of the Party Committee of Ho Chi Minh city and chairman of Vietnam-India Friendship Association, Le Hung Quoc, president of the HCMC Union of Friendship Organisation, Prof Vo Van Sen, president of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, and Le Phuoc Vu, chairman of the Hoa Sen Group and chairman of the Vietnam-India Business Forum.
During his stay in Ho Chi Minh City, the Vice President visited the War Museum as well as the Cu Chi tunnels set up in resistance to the French and American invasions of Vietnam.
When this correspondent asked him during the onboard media conference if an absence of a similar feature in India, which along with other ancient cultural similarities with Vietnam also shares one on invasions, liberation struggle and wars, led to India's short memory on its enemies, Ansari each nation deals with its past in its own way. "If Vietnam has theirs, we have our own way of remembering our past. It does not mean we have forgotten anything," he said.
Asked about the recurrence of rapes in the country and the various extreme measures being suggested to tackle the menace, including chemical castration, and if he was in agreement with them, the Vice President said there was a vibrant discussion going on within civil society, government, the political class etc, he begged off commenting on it.
Ansari landed in New Delhi on Thursday night on the conclusion of his 4-day visit to Vietnam.
Pic: Vice President Hamid Ansari at the airport
Photograph: Saisuresh Sivaswamy