Viet Nam News spoke to Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae on the occasion of the country's National Day today.
We again offer our condolences for the bomb attacks in Mumbai last month. How is the situation in Mumbai now and what are the Indian Government's future plans in the fight against terrorism?
We have been a victim of countless terror attacks over the years, which have resulted in a significant loss of life. The people of Mumbai have suffered grievously on several occasions, but they are very resilient. Both the government and people of India have redoubled their efforts in the fight against terrorism. India unequivocally and categorically condemns all acts of terrorism. There can be no justification for such actions that claim the lives of innocent people. India has always been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, which requires the support and co-operation of the international community. Not only should the organisers and financiers of these terrorist attacks be punished, but also those who provide ideological and moral support to this evil phenomenon. You may recall that India tabled the Comprehensive Convention of International Terrorism (CCIT) in 1996 at the United Nations, which needs to be adopted by member states as soon as possible to provide a reliable and workable legal framework for the fight against terrorism. The world should act decisively to prevent further attacks.
Ambassador Ranjit Rae
This year's Viet Nam-India ties were marked by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar's official visit to Viet Nam last May. What was the most significant outcome of her visit?
India and Viet Nam share a healthy and vibrant tradition of parliamentary and people-to-people exchanges. The visit of former National Assembly Chairman (now Party General Secretary) Nguyen Phu Trong to India in February 2010 contributed significantly to strengthening the relations between our governments, parliaments and people. The visit of Speaker of Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) Meira Kumar to Viet Nam in May proved very successful. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the state of our relationship and underlined the need to add greater content to the Strategic Partnership. The Speaker congratulated the Vietnamese leadership on the commendable socio-economic progress achieved in the last few years. She also thanked the Vietnamese dignitaries for their support to India on regional and international issues. I am confident that her visit will open avenues to greater parliamentary exchanges, including between young political leaders in the two countries.
India is one of the few countries in the world to have signed a strategic partnership with Viet Nam. While a strategic partnership is looked upon extremely favourably in Viet Nam, what does it mean to India?
India and Viet Nam share close and long-standing ties that were elevated to the level of ‘Strategic Partnership' during the visit of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of Viet Nam to India in 2007. Over the years, our bilateral ties have deepened to cover areas such as politics, defence and security, trade and investment, education and capacity building. The two sides remain committed to adding greater content to this partnership through a closer engagement. In the last 12 months, we have had several high-level visits from both sides. Our Prime Minister paid a successful visit to Viet Nam in 2010 to attend the ASEAN-India Summit and East Asia Summit. Delegations led by our Minister of State for External Affairs, Commerce and Industry Minister, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Minister for Food Processing Industries, Minister for Overseas Indians Affairs and Minister of Finance also visited Viet Nam.
Muslims shop for Eid-al-Fitr in old city of Hyderabad in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. — XINHUA/VNS Photo
Just last week, the second India-Viet Nam Strategic Dialogue and fifth Foreign Office Consultations took place in Ha Noi. The two sides discussed a wide range of global and regional issues including non-traditional security threats. The Foreign Office Consultations provided us an opportunity to review the state of bilateral relations and measures to add content to our Strategic Partnership. The two sides are also working closely for the upcoming meeting of the 14th India-Viet Nam Joint Commission Meeting, which will be held in Ha Noi in September.
Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two countries. We plan to organise a series of events to celebrate this occasion. These will include visits, commemorative events, trade and investment promotion activities and cultural events such as dance performances, a culinary week and a film festival.
More and more Vietnamese say they want to visit your country to see the legendary Taj Mahal and other famous landmarks, but costly airfares and visa fees have made it unaffordable for many. What do you think should be done to increase the flow of tourism between our countries?
I strongly feel that there is tremendous potential for enhancing people-to-people interaction in the two countries. As a diverse country with rich cultural traditions, India offers a very wide range of choices for visitors and tourists. For Vietnamese people, there is the additional desire to visit Buddhist pilgrimage sites including the sacred city of Bodh Gaya. An increasing number of Vietnamese are now travelling to India to visit these sites. We have simplified and streamlined our visa procedures and reduced the time frame as much as possible. I would like to share with you that India extended the visa-on-arrival service to Viet Nam on January 1, 2011.
|India at a glance: |
Area: 3,287,263 sq. km
Population: 1.2 billion (approx)
Capital: New Delhi
Language(s): Hindi, English
Currency: Indian rupee
National flag: Horizontal tricolour flag (deep saffron, white, and green). In the centre of the white is a navy blue wheel with 24 spokes
The absence of direct flights between India and Viet Nam remains the single-most important constraint to two-way tourism. Direct air connectivity will facilitate movement of business and provide an impetus to tourism. I may add that airlines from both sides have shown a keen interest in commencing direct flights. We hope that the requisite formalities in this regard can be completed at the earliest possible time.
The Indian cricket team won the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Your country has long been among the leading nations in this sport. Do you miss it in Viet Nam? Does India have any plans to help introduce the sport here?
India is a cricket-crazed country. Our victory at the 2011 Cricket World Cup led to huge celebrations back home as well as among the Indian diaspora living abroad. Though cricket remains the favourite sport in India, I may add that there are several ardent fans of the game of soccer in India. Perhaps we can look at the possibility of Vietnamese soccer club teams visiting India to play there and vice-versa. May be we can also interest the people of Viet Nam in cricket by setting up a cricket team here!
India is also famous for food. What is your favourite Indian dish and can you tell our readers a bit about its origin?
Just as India is a diverse country, our cuisine differs from region to region. The staple dishes, method of cooking and ingredients are unique to each region. Though I come from North India, my favourite dish is from the southern part of my country. It is ‘Idli', a steamed dumpling made of rice or semolina that is eaten with coconut chutney. It is very delicious and I hope your readers will try it at the various Indian restaurants in Viet Nam. — VNS