Overview of two days’ Seminar on “India-Vietnam relations: Retrospect & Prospect”
Organized by ICCR at New Delhi on 20-21st February 2016
Mr. Geetesh Sharma*
Cultural relations between India and Vietnam may be traced back to first century or even earlier. Buddhism and Brahmanical culture had great influence and impact on Vietnam and her people. There are enormous historical evidences that substantiate these views, which can be witnessed more in Central and few in Southern Vietnam. Our relations always maintained mutual understanding, respect and co-operation. However, should it be enough for our self contentment?
Many parts of Asia, particularly the South and Southeast Asia are facing difficult period in the area of regional co-operation because of many conflicts. Huge amount is being spent on arms for self defence by smaller nations because of hegemonic attitude of certain nations. In our humble opinion if we can unite the people of the region through culture of peace, stability, friendship and development then it may solve the problem to certain extent through peaceful means. Here Vietnam and India may play an important and effective role.
In spite of our extremely cordial relations, we feel, we are lacking in the area of culture. If more and more people to people relations is developed through tourism, cultural exchange in the field of art, literature, music and dance, it will not only have great impact on both the peoples of Vietnam and India but also on the Asian region as a whole. Keeping all these facts in view the ICCR organized a two days’ seminar on “India-Vietnam relations : Retrospect & Prospect” in New Delhi on 20th & 21st February 2016.
On the eve of the Seminar on 19th February 2016 a colourful and entertaining cultural performance of Indian Classical Music and Rabindra Sangit was presented by eminent artistes on the well decorated lawn of the ICCR. Speaking on the occasion Prof. Lokesh Chandra, Hon’ble President of the ICCR, H. E. Mr. Vu Xuan Hong, President of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations and H. E. Mr. Ton Sinh Thanh, Ambassador of S. R. Vietnam in India, emphasized over the future vision of the bilateral relations between the two countries and explained why the relations were important not only strategically but culturally also for still better understanding of each other.
The proceeding was well conducted by Mr. C. Rajasekhar, the Director General of the ICCR, who in his brief address highlighted the importance of bilateral relations between India and Vietnam.
On 20th February 2016 sharp at 11 A.M. the Seminar was formally inaugurated by Prof. Lokesh Chandra, the President of ICCR, who in his address emphatically told that the culture should be provided top priority along with other areas of co-operation. He said that India and Vietnam had a glorious tradition of friendly relations in the past and we need to carry this legacy to still greater heights. Mr. C. Rajasekhar, Director General ICCR, New Delhi while welcoming highlighted that our proud and precious friendship is not of today, yesterday or the last century but it is an enduring story of mutual love, respect and admiration which spreads over two millennia and how it can be enhanced. On the occasion Shri Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), quoting former Prime Minister Pham Van dong that our friendship is as clear as blue sky without any cloud spoke at length on the various aspects and its bright prospects. H.E. Mr. Vu Xuan Hong, President VUFO, to consolidate and promote India Vietnam strategic partnership, spoke about some important proposals and stressed on the implementations of MOUs signed. H. E. Mr. Ton Sinh Thanh Ambassador of S.R. Vietnam in India appreciating the richness of Indian culture, talked about the cultural diplomacy. He said that if the Govt. of India accepts the proposal to erect the statue of President Ho Chi Minh in the capital of India, it will be an excellent symbol of friendship. Mr. Pham Van Duc, vice president, Vietnam Academy of Social Science, believed that the Indian-Vietnamese and International scholars will share historical information and bring new insight to age old cultural ties and take the bilateral relations to new height. Ms. Namrata Kumar, Dy. Director General, ICCR, while giving vote of thanks talked about the historical linkage and some important initiatives taken by ICCR towards moving, forming and insuring shared partnership and bridges through cultural, academic and intellectual exchange.
In his keynote address Mr. Geetesh Sharma, Academic Co-coordinator of the Seminar said that the culture was the only soft power that united the mankind and crated mutual understanding, respect and harmony between nations that guarantees peace and development. He said that our relations with Vietnam were time tested and that we should constantly endeavour and make sure that this tree of relations remain ever green and bears fruits in abundance.
Inaugural session was followed by five different sessions as follows and in said sessions the subject matters of discussion were : Culture binds India-Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh In India & Tagore in Vietnam; Impact of Buddhism and Hinduism over Vietnam’s Culture; Future Vision of Relations : Mutual Exchange of Ideas.
Eminent scholars and distinguished speakers who addressed the Seminar included Shri Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), MEA, Govt. of India, Ms. Pooja Kapur, Jt. Secretary, (ASEAN/ML),MEA, H.E. Vu Xuan Hong, President Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations ; H.E. Mr. Ton Sinh Thanh, Ambassador of S.R. Vietnam in India; Mr. Aftab Seth, Ambassador(retired) ;Prof. Pham Van Duc, Vice President of Vietnam Academy of Social Science; Mr. Le Hung Quoc, President, Ho Chi Minh Union of Friendship Organizations; Prof. Amareshwar Galla, Prof. Tridib Chakraborti of Jadavpur University, Kolkata; Prof. Tanveer Nasreen of Bardhaman university; Ms. Kusum Jain, poet and cultural activist; Prof. Rajaram Panda from Bhubaneshwar; Prof. Vo Van Thang, Director, Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculptures ; Mr. Prem Kapoor, Drama Critic, journalist and Cultural Activist; Mr. Harivansh Chaturvedi, Director, Birla Institute of Management & Technology; Ms. Ruchhita Kazaria, Peace Activist and Poet; Ms. Ha Thanh Ngoc, Research Scholar at Allahabad University; Prof. Nirmala Sharma, Art Historian and cultural activist ; Prof. Tran Ky Phuong, Historian and expert on Cham Culture in Vietnam and South East Asia; Ms. Bach Than Binh, Minister-Counseller, Embassy of S.R.Vietnam; Ms. Dang Thi Thai Ha and Ms. Dr. Doan Thi Tuyen, Research scholars of Vietnam Academy of Social Science.
Prof. Le Van Toan, Director, of Centre for India Studies of Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Hanoi; Asso. Prof. Mr. Tran Minh Truong of India Centre Seminar, Hanoi; and Ms. Pravamayee Samantray, teacher in English at Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, Hanoi also presented their papers in absentia.
In honour of speakers and delegates of the seminar a dinner was hosted by the Ambassador of the S.R. Vietnam; H.E. Ton Sinh Thanh at the Embassy, Chanakyapuri.
In the two days’ Seminar about 25 scholars, research scholar, cultural activists besides seven observers participated and presented their papers highlighting the various aspects of mutual relations between India and Vietnam and it was a pleasant surprise to note that the speakers avoided repeating the observations of other speakers, and that their observations were exclusive.
All through the Seminar, from inaugural to valedictory session, the Seminar Hall was almost packed to capacity and the audience listened to the deliberations with rapt attention. Another special feature of the Seminar was that its participants represented three generations between 30 and 84 years’ age groups.
After long deliberations and interaction with the audience the Valedictory Session took place on 21st February 2016 at 3 P.M. and lasted for over 2 hours wherein the speakers registered their pleasant surprise that all the distinguished speakers were unanimous in their observation that presently India Vietnam relations were par excellent but they also agreed that we should not feel contented and that we should ceaselessly endeavour to scale ever new heights of friendly relations as the present global scenario does not provide an optimist picture because of regional conflicts, hegemonic attitude of certain nations, conflicts in the name of religion and newer forms of terrorism. It was felt that the friendly relations between the two countries should no more be confined to two countries alone but the message should be carried forward to international fraternity for creating a peaceful and friendly environment as also to crate an environment to combat evil forces.
The added attraction of the Seminar was an interesting exhibition of some rare photographs of President Ho Chi Minh’s two visits to India in 1946 and 1958 besides few items of traditional and modern handicrafts of Vietnam along with traditional Vietnamese attire that were also on display. A section of the exhibition had about eleven titles of Rabindranath Tagore translated and published into Vietnamese and twenty seven titles in English, Hindi and Bengali published in India highlighting the solidarity and support of the Indian people to Vietnam during its liberation war. Exhibits were from the personal collection of Geetesh Sharma and Kusum Jain of the Indo-Vietnam Solidarity Committee, Kolkata, West Bengal and were highly appreciated by the viewers.
Agendas Resolved : It was resolved that -
All the papers which were read out by the scholars and distinguished participants will be published in a Coffee- Table Book form.
H.E. Mr. Vu Xuan Hong, President VUFO will host the second leg of the Seminar in Hanoi in 2017 to mark the 45th year of Diplomatic Relations between India and Vietnam.
Proposal from the Govt. of Vietnam to erect the statue of Ho Chi Minh should be taken up.
Matter pertaining to more and more exchange of delegations between India and Vietnam for economic collaborations, opening of Cultural cum Trade Centre at Kolkata, developing tourism and proposals for scholarship of students should be considered by the ICCR and MEA from Indian side and the Embassy of S.R. Vietnam and Govt. of S.R. Vietnam from the Vietnam side.
The Seminar was a most promising event and we hope, it will be used by researchers, administrators, cultural activists working in the area to create an atmosphere of peace, friendship and development which will stimulate and motivate each other to develop proper measures in future.
* Academic Coordinator