“Vietnam – India Development Cooperation on culture, society, education and training”
Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, June 30th, 2015
Speech by Mrs Preeti Saran, Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Repulic of India to Vietnam
Your Excellency Prof. PhD. Ta Ngoc Tan, President of the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Member of the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Viet Nam, President of Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Members of the Board of Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics,
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Van Toan, Director of Centre for Indian Studies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be present here today to attend the Conference on “Vietnam-India Development Cooperation on Culture, Society, Education and Training” organized by the India Studies Centre at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics.
I would like to thank Dr. Ta Ngoc Tan for the leadership provided by him in steering the work of the India Studies Centre in the first year of its creation. I would also like to congratulate Dr Le Van Toan, founding Director of the India Studies Centre at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, for the tremendous work that has been initiated on India-Vietnam relations, ever since the Centre was co- inaugurated in September last year, by our two Presidents Their Excellencies Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and President Truong Tan Sang. In a very short span of time, the Centre has created its own website and organized a series of events and lectures, which I am sure has created awareness about the scope and potential of India-Vietnam relations among the leaders and decision-makers in Vietnam. I am confident that in a few years time, the Centre will become one of the leading institutions on India-Vietnam relations.
When our two countries were fighting for independence, the leaders of our Independence movement, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ho Chi Minh were in direct contact with each other. Speaking from prison, President Ho Chi Minh wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru:
“Thousand miles apart, we have not met,
we are communicating without words,
shared ideas link you and me.”
Although these words were spoken in the context of two struggling nations, fighting for independence from colonial rule, these words are equally relevant to the cultural and civilizational linkages that exist between our two countries. For this reason, culture, education and training has remained a very important aspect of our development cooperation with Vietnam in modern times.
India-Vietnam historical and civilizational linkages go back many centuries. These are evident today in the practice of Buddhism, both in India and in Vietnam. The beautiful Champa monuments in My Son, Nha Trang, Phu Yen and other places in central and southern Vietnam, tell another story of our ancient historical links. There is also a very distinct Indian influence in Vietnamese cuisine and the use of spices in different food and dishes cooked in Vietnam.
Over the centuries, Vietnam’s history and society was affected by several external influences. Throughout the course of its history, Vietnam also had to fight several wars, including 18 major invasions. What made the Indian links to Vietnam different from other external influences was the fact that our links were totally peaceful; they came through trade, culture, religion, and the philosophy of peaceful coexistence and non-violence. There was never any conflict. That, in my opinion, is the most important feature of our ancient links. It is perhaps because of this strong foundation of peace, that our relations have endured in modern times and become even stronger.
Over the years, since our independence, we have continued to forge even stronger political, economic and defence relations. We have also enhanced our cultural cooperation, people-to-people contact and linkages through education and training. There is an entire generation of leaders and decision makers on both sides that has grown up based on these linkages that were created early on in our post-independence relations. In the course of my one and a half years stay in Vietnam, I have come across many scientists, academics, media persons, engineers and Buddhist philosophers, who have studied in India and brought with them positive experiences that have contributed to bringing India and Vietnam closer together.
In fact, Vietnam has been one the largest recipients of our training programmes under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. Presently, 150 ITEC slots are being offered to Vietnam every year along with 16 scholarships under the General Cultural Scholarship Scheme (GCSS) and 14 scholarships under the Educational Exchange Programme (EEP) and 10 scholarships under the MGC Scholarship Scheme.
The first meeting of the India-Vietnam Joint Working Group on Educational Exchange was held in May 2012 in New Delhi. The meeting discussed measures to strengthen cooperation in the field of education between the two countries. During the 15th Joint Commission Meeting held in 2013, both sides agreed to explore the possibility of cooperation in learning from India's experiences in English language based education in academic institutions, including schools and colleges, experience sharing, training the trainers, teacher exchange programmes and introducing CBSE course content in Vietnamese schools.
Over the years, we have also tried to create several institutional linkages for greater academic exchanges. Apart from the creation of the India Studies Centre at the Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics last year, in January 2012, the Institute for Indian and South-West Asian Studies was established at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences to mark the 40th anniversary of establishment of full diplomatic relations. Department of South East Asian Studies, University of Social Sciences and Humanities of Vietnam National University, Hanoi also has a section on Indian Studies. About 30 students study Indian history and culture. A similar number of students are also pursuing undergraduate courses at Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City. Hindi classes are conducted in Ho Chi Minh City. A short-term ‘Tagore Chair’ on Indian Studies has been set up at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City with ICCR’s assistance. This is just the beginning. I hope that we can create several similar institutions both in India and Vietnam, to enhance our cooperation in the education sector.
In 1976, we signed a bilateral Cultural Agreement. Since then, a series of successful cultural exchanges have taken place under a Cultural Exchange Programme, including visits and cultural performances in 2012, to celebrate the Year of Friendship, and to mark the 40th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Vietnam. Last year in March, we again organized a very successful Festival of India in Vietnam in three cities – Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City. It had several components: a Classical and a Folk Dance Recital, a Buddhist Festival, a Food Festival, Henna art demonstration and Yoga classes. All the events were extremely popular, once again highlighting the close cultural affinities that exist between our two countries. Subsequently, another classical dance troupe from Manipur in India participated in the Hue cultural festival followed by a Bollywood dance group that performed in Hanoi, Phu Tho and Yen Bai. The possibilities are immense and it is our effort to constantly improve upon our past successes.
On 21st June, last week, we celebrated the 1st International Day of Yoga in 10 cities and provinces of Vietnam, including in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It was a resounding success and showcased the importance and relevance of yoga as a science that promotes physical and spiritual fitness, peace, harmony and oneness of universe. When India made the proposal to declare 21st June as the Yoga day in the United Nations, Vietnam was the first country that supported us and co-sponsored the resolution, which was approved unanimously, by a record number of co-sponsors. The celebration of Yoga day, world wide, was overwhelming. Vietnam, once again, led these celebrations with India. We would soon be opening a cultural centre in Hanoi. Judging by the immense popularity of yoga, we plan to start the activities of the Culture Centre with a full time yoga teacher from India. We hope to collaborate with existing yoga institutions in Vietnam that have done a phenomenal job of teaching yoga and yogic philosophy.
During Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to India in October last year, it was agreed that the Archaeological Survey of India will help to renovate one of the temple complexes in My Son, which remains an enduring symbol of our ancient linkages. I am certain this project will contribute to attracting more tourists from India and from other parts of the world. In my opinion, tourism remains an important aspect of our cultural and people to people contacts. There is a huge untapped potential in tourism which we must exploit by opening direct flights, creating more awareness through better marketing and use of popular Bollywood cinema.
We are both young nations where large percentages of our population are below 25 years of age. What we teach our youth today, is what they practice in the future. While we always remain proud of our ancient linkages, and nostalgic about the friendship cemented by the founding fathers of our independence movement, the future of India-Vietnam relations rests with the youth of our two countries. They will be the future leaders of our two countries. We need to educate our youth about the potential in our relationship. The foundations laid by strong cultural, educational, and social influences, will therefore play a very important part in forming public opinion. I look forward to working with Ho Chi Minh Academy and all others present here to forge closer cultural and educational linkages with my country. Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics, as the foremost institution for training both young cadres as well as senior officials in the Government and Party, thus plays a very important part in maintaining the linkages and sustaining that awareness.