Secretary (East): Today, we’ve had essentially visits and you’ve got the write ups to various places the President has been to. The Banquet will be happening today but before that there is a call on by Le Thanh Hai who is the Party Secretary Ho Chi Minh city, a very important personality in Vietnam, who like the Prime Minister is supposed to be a bright star and therefore this was a last minute change and we welcome that. We hope that there would be some further interesting exchange of views during that visit. I think I was in a little bit of hurry yesterday, so if you want to follow up on something by way questions, maybe that’s better because I have a lot of things here but I don’t know what would interest you. Essentially, in all these meetings there was some sort of repetitive message which came through and the repetitive message was about the fact that our relationship needs to be taken to a higher level and that desire came from both sides but from the Vietnamese side first, which we welcomed. Another issue that we touched upon which I didn’t talk about yesterday was on the security of the sea-lanes. Our President emphasized that and most important is Maritime trade and traffic in the East Sea, which is of concern to Vietnam, is preserved. He was not talking of sovereignty issues; but he was talking about collective security and things like terrorism, trans-national crime and human smuggling etc. What he did say was that if we work together to preserve the freedom of navigation in the seas which surround us, then we can take this cooperation forward and we will cooperate in future as far as that aspect is concern.
Vietnam also talked about issues like Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, WTO, United Nations and issues which face us multi-laterally. You know that we have supported them for the Non-permanent seat in the UN seat for 2020-21 for which they have given us reciprocal support for 2021-22 term. On the issue of Jet Airways, I think the fact that the Jet Airways is making a beginning in November has encouraged Vietnam Airlines to start direct flights which will happen next year. So by next year we should enough of flights which will help bilateral trade and investment.
As a result of what we discussed yesterday, we also talked about follow up action and one of the things which I talked to you about yesterday was the follow up visit by the Prime Minister of Vietnam to India. He will be going to India with a large business delegation making sure that the focus is also shifting towards economic aspects rather than just political cooperation and there would be some specific sectors. So we will be organizing specific meetings in India for Vietnamese companies in those sectors. I think, I did identify 3 of the sectors to you yesterday. They would identify some more for us in coming weeks. Currently, they have already decided to set up a group for the composition of that delegation and we did have a preliminary discussion this morning with the Vietnamese officials because visit is on pretty quickly, next month itself. So, as a follow up to this visit, there would be 2 other delegations going for the Prime Minister’s visit and after that we will follow it up with some delegations coming to Vietnam in the commercial field.
The Prime Minister of Vietnam has expressed his desire to visit Bodhgaya, so the visit would start from there. He’ll then come on to Delhi after that. In that respect the gift of the sapling which I did not speak about yesterday, but I think you know most of the things about it. That is something that we gifted to Thailand and Republic of Korea also in the past. In both countries there is widespread appreciation for the fact that the sapling of the original Bodhi Tree has now been planted there. Today, when the President visited this morning at the Pagoda, he also went around the Bodhi Tree which was gifted by Dr. Rajendra Pasad in 1959. It is now 55 years old and is doing pretty well. It’s planted right in front of the Pagoda on the sea. So that is something he liked a lot. He was happy to see it grow well and that so many people in Vietnam come and pay their respect over there. What is different this time, though, is that we have a plaque which denotes very clearly that it’s planted together by both the Presidents, which we did not have at that time possibly because in Vietnam at that time they did not want to separate or give prominence to one particular Bodhi Tree. But that’s a question of time and now time has changed.
I am sure that because of this we will have further interest in tourism. That’s another area that has been identified for focus by the Vietnamese side because, as you know, tourism in Vietnam has been their mainstay for quite some time and that has gone down drastically for reasons that you all know. Therefore, to fill up that void India is a good opportunity for them. We have agreed to look at signing MoUs on audio visual cooperation, also on joint production of films and improving tourism links. There is also a cultural exchange program which is due for renewal and which will come up for renewal for the time Joint Committee meets. Joint Committee is supposed to meet next year.
Anything that you would like to ask then I am ready to answer.
Question: Sir one doubt, by next year you mean that the flight would be operational next year?
Secretary (East): Yes, Jet Airways would be starting on the 5th of November and Vietnam Airlines would start around April next year.
Question: Are we gifting the Bodhi Tree sapling to the Chinese President as well?
Secretary (East): This is an incoming visit, so I will not be able to do that. But I suppose we can look at gifting one later.
Question: Yesterday, when the President addressed the Ho Chi Minh City, he spoke of Buddha being the common linkage. Just for understanding a communist country under transition, how much of this Buddha thing is linking. You had given a very important speech some time ago on Chums civilization, what is the influence of India on Chams civilization in this region. Can you just tell us, how much of this Buddha thing can get us closer and will Buddha thing work with Chinese also?
Secretary (East): Well, actually the attraction towards Buddhism has always been there in Vietnam. I know that you talking about the system and you are saying that because there is communism, that might not be the case in countries like this. But you will be surprised by how much reverence there is; and also I think successive leaders from Vietnam, who have gone to Bodhgaya, have all got promoted and they believe that this is because one of the leaves from Bodhi Tree fell on them and therefore, there is a great desire amongst the leadership to visit us and Bodhgaya and in particular, the Bodhi Tree.
There are six of the seven major sites which are connected directly with the Buddha, where he worked and preached and walked; those are all located in India and only Lumbini is in Nepal. So, with all these countries who have Buddhism, it’s a big attraction. In Vietnam also, it’s a big attraction. In Vietnam, somewhat like China where although there is monolithic Communist Party but at the same time there is great desire to do well economically. So, although we don’t call it capitalism, but we do call it a desire to excel in life. Even in China there are people who are ardent subscribers to Buddhism, to Taoism; some of course are non-believers but that’s a different issue. I think there is a trend and there is certain attraction to Buddhism and that is why it is important for us to develop our own Buddhist circuit in the future. To make it more attractive for all the countries who are in the region to come to visit India. It’s only if we can improve our own facilities that we can make it a big success.
Question: Second thing was on Chams civilization, yesterday also came in the Communique. Besides the role of ASI in trying to promote restoration work in that site, how are we looking at this?
Secretary (East): We could not conclude the MoU yesterday because of lack of time, because we are discussing about modalities of who will pay for what on both sides. We were very close to an agreement but I think we still have to finalise the follow up to the restoration. So we have agreed that as far as the labour is concerned, how much of specialists and technicians will come from India, what are the kind of labour and the quantity that the Vietnamese will provide; and then after that when the work is over running the site and its maintenance etc -that is a question because I don’t think there is specialization in Vietnam right now to do that. We are very willing to work with them to create specialization so that it’s a self-sustaining point where tourists from all over the world can come and see this as a major attraction and I know that Siem Reap has developed over the years essentially because it has a galloping effect in terms of its popularity. So those who have been there obviously tell others about the uniqueness of Siam Reap and the Hindu civilization and temples there. Similarly, Champa has not been discovered so far over the world. It’s just the archaeologists and those who know Vietnam and those who are historians on India and Vietnam, they know about it.
Speech that you are referring to, actually, was an inaugural event that we did in Indira Gandhi Centre for National Arts where we got together specialists from all over the world on the Champa civilization; to talk about what aspects should concentrated upon in the future.
Question: What India can provide to Vietnam in best interest of India, best English teachers, best medical practitioners which is the service sector, almost, which India can contribute a lot in this country? This is the urgent need of this country as we can see here. So what sort of agreements or MoUs have signed during this visit in the field of education and health sector?
Secretary (East): We have a number of English language teaching schools, vocational training schools. More are being set up at the moment. But that I didn’t talk about because we are doing that under the ASEAN-India Fund. That’s a large fund which has US $50 million. Those programs are separate from the bilateral program that we have taken up during this visit. But that’s on-going as well. Also, there are some very specialized institutes that we have set up in Vietnam, For example we have gifted them a Param Computer for high speed computing and that centre is going to get ready very soon. There is also an Indira Gandhi Forensic Laboratory which is a world class laboratory, which we have gifted them. We are now going to train those people to run it. That was also referred to in the talks yesterday. These are on-going projects, so we have not started at this point in time but it was started a bit earlier. But in terms of capacity building, I think there is a lot which we are doing in Vietnam already.
Question: The official program of the President was almost over yesterday. So, why he has undertaken a visit to Ho Chi Minh City and what is the idea behind this?
Secretary (East): There is a symbolism connected with Ho Chi Minh, here in this city. So, it’s a tradition that when the President or Prime Minister comes, they come and call on the Party General Secretary who is here in Ho Chi Minh City and it’s an important centre for the Communist Party of Vietnam. A number of leaders in the past have come up from Ho Chi Minh City. If you go to China, for example, you talk about Shanghai for instance as a centre. This is one of those similar situations here and plus it has a number of these historical sites especially the one where Bodhi Tree is (connected with Dr. Rajendra Prasad), Cu Chi Tunnels which are going to see tomorrow. And final factor was the Indian community because they are mainly based here.
Question: You mentioned about film production, or joint production, are we looking on cooperation on the technical side or on the actual film making where our directors and actors can come together?
Secretary (East): We are looking at filmmaking and to see if we can shoot some films in Vietnam, that will make it a more popular country as a tourist destination. One of the best ways to promote tourism from India is to shoot a film in that country and people see the beauty of the country and then get attracted to come.
Question: You are trying to get a Bollywood film making done here?
Secretary (East): That’s right.