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Tuesday, 25 June 2019 14:37
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President Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnam - India friendship

(LLCT) - The friendship between Vietnam and India is rooted in similar plights of colonial rule, in the struggle for independence and freedom, and in many shared values and benefits in the building up and protection of the countries. The friendship in the modern era was founded by two outstanding leaders of our nations, President Ho Chi Minh and Prime Minister J. Nehru, beginning in the 1950s. Continuing that good relationship, succeeding generations of leaders of the both countries have consistently tried to cultivate, strengthen, and build a comprehensive strategic partnership in all fields, including economics, politics, diplomacy, security, defense, culture, and education.

Key words: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - India friendship.

President Ho Chi Minh is a Vietnamese hero of national liberation, an outstanding man of culture who devoted his life to the cause of the national liberation of the Vietnamese people, contributing positively to the common struggle of the people for peace, national independence, democracy, and social progress. Internationally, President Ho Chi Minh set a good example of striving for solidarity and friendship among all peoples. Together with Prime Minister J. Nehru, President Ho Chi Minh laid a solid foundation for the friendship between Vietnam and India.

1. President Ho Chi Minh and the foundation of the Vietnam - India friendship

President Ho Chi Minh fell in love with the land and the people of India on the basis of understanding, sharing, and sympathizing with the fate of the people who were suffering humiliation under foreign rule. He wrote many articles praising the heroic struggle of the Indian people against the colonial regime and admiring freedom fighters in India. One of Ho Chi Minh’s early writings about India was the Indian Revolutionary Movement, published in La Revue Communiste, No. 18/19, September 1921. It was a surprising topic because India was a British colony, not a French one, and the Vietnamese people’s understanding of India at that time was fairly low. In the article, besides showing an understanding of India’s people, historical traditions, and culture, he praised the indomitable fighting spirit of the Indian people against the colonial regime.

Ho Chi Minh’s understanding of India was also expressed in the selection of the name Le Paria for his first article. Paria is the lowest rank in the traditional Indian social ladder, referring to people who often face suffering, despicable treatment, humiliation, and disparagement from society. This proved that Ho Chi Minh was very knowledgeable about the Indian civilization.

Later, President Ho Chi Minh wrote many more articles on India, such as British Colonial Policy (November 1923), Letter from India (March 1928), Indian Workers Movement (April 1928), Indian Farmers (April 1928), and the recent Workers and Farmers Movement in India (May 1928). Through the articles, he showed deep concern for the patriotic resistance movement which demanded the national independence of the Indian people.

The sharing and affection of Ho Chi Minh with the people and the country of India was also reflected in his concern for Indian revolutionists. In 1927, he met J. Nehru’s father in Belgium. Later, Prime Minister J. Nehru confirmed the meeting: “...He [Ho Chi Minh] also added that wreaths and peach trees were given to my father as presents. President Ho Chi Minh met my father in Belgium in 1927 during the International Conference against colonialism. It was a brief meeting a long time ago, but he still remembered my father”(1).

Upon learning that the revolutionary J. Nehru was imprisoned in a British colonial prison, from inside Guangxi prison Ho Chi Minh wrote a poem in Chinese characters dedicated to J. Nehru, titled “J. Nehru”:

“When I strive, you work

I’m in prison, you are in jail

Miles of miles far away, we have not met

No words shared, but sympathy exchanged”(2).

J. Nehru is the only revolutionary leader mentioned by Ho Chi Minh in his Prison Diary. This demonstrates the closeness of two peoples in similar situations and with similar goals.

The close affection of Ho Chi Minh with J. Nehru continued to grow during Vietnam’s struggle for independence and national construction.

President Ho Chi Minh first arrived in India in 1946: he was making a trip to Paris and he made a stop in Calcutta. Although the stay in Calcutta lasted for only a few hours, he left the Indian people deeply impressed by his humility, austerity, and concern for oppressed and exploited people. This was recorded by the senior revolutionist Mohit Sen in his book A Traveler and the Road: “When we arrived, we were all introduced to a slim person with smiling eyes and thin silver beard, dressed in the popular clothing of the Chinese communists and high sandals. It was Ho Chi Minh”(3). The visit was short, but the image of Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese revolution left a deep impression on the people of West Bengal in general and Calcutta in particular. Later, there were many protests and mass gatherings there to express their solidarity and support of the people of Vietnam. They even gave their blood to the Vietnamese people’s struggle for freedom: “the people of Calcutta chose January 19, 1947 as a Vietnam day, and on January 21, 1947, thousands of students, in disregard of the 144th rule, protested in a huge parade progressing out from the Calcutta University campus. The police arrested some people and then opened fire to disperse students who were rallying. City college student Dhir Ranjan Sen and high school student Sukhendu Biswas were the victims of a series of police bullets, they were shot right in front of the Legislative Institute (now the Century Building). A third victim, another student, named Rana Mitra Sen, was hit in the leg”(4).

During his second visit to India, in 1958, President Ho Chi Minh visited Mr. Rana Mitra Sen. He expressed his wish to meet the families of the students killed by police during the protest. He was unable to meet them at that time, but through the Vietnamese Embassy in Delhi he expressed his feelings and gratitude to the families of the dead.

Immediately after Hanoi was liberated from the French on October 10, 1954, a high-ranking delegation of the Republic of India, led by Prime Minister J. Nehru, paid an official visit to Vietnam. This was the first time that the Democratic Government of Vietnam welcomed a high-level delegation led by a leader of another country. More specifically, it was a high-level delegation from a large country in Asia, one of the most brilliant civilizations of humanity in the middle ages. The breakthrough event held a lot of significance for the Vietnamese revolution and it was an important development in the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and India. The meeting held many unforgettable memories of the great friendship between the two leaders of the two nations, these two great Asian men. This is the basis for many more important contributions made by President Ho Chi Minh and Prime Minister J. Nehru in building and developing the Vietnam - India friendship.

From 5 to 14 February 1958, President Ho Chi Minh paid an official visit to India. This was an outstanding event, marking an important development in diplomatic relations between the two countries. When talking about the purpose of the visit, President Ho Chi Minh stated: “Out visit is to further strengthen the friendship between Vietnam, India, and Burma, and to strengthen the solidarity between Asian - African peoples, thus supporting international forces to preserve world peace”(5); assessing the significance of the visit, he said: “India is a very big country and the people of India are very brave. Previously, like us, they were oppressed by the colonialists, the people of India and Burma fought successfully for national independence and for building their country. We are sure to learn a lot from their valuable experiences”(6).

President Ho Chi Minh’s visit to India lasted for 10 days, in which time he carried out many diplomatic activities. These activities were recorded in an article about The brotherhood of Vietnam, India, and Burma. The 58-page article was published in Nhan Dan newspaper from No. 1,447 to No. 1,474, with the writings about India totaling 48 pages. Why did President Ho Chi Minh write such a long article? Perhaps, as he said: “We will remember forever the beautiful image of the Indian brothers and the warm friendship of Indians for us. When we return home, we will report what we have seen with our own eyes and will convey all the cordial greetings of the Indians to our Vietnamese compatriots”(7) and “to India, the delegation and I bring the brotherhood of our people. When I come back, the delegation and I will bring the brotherhood of the people of these countries to our people”(8). The friendship between Vietnam and India is only built firmly when based on mutual understanding. Therefore, President Ho Chi Minh recounted what he had seen personally to help the Vietnamese people better understand the Indian people and country.

At the talks during his visit to India, President Ho Chi Minh stated that the basis of the Vietnam - India friendship was thanks to the fact that “the people of our two countries have had a long-term relationship. Under colonial rule, that relationship was temporarily interrupted, but the traditional friendship has always brought our two peoples together”(9). Throughout the visit, President Ho Chi Minh expressed his diplomatic diligence and clearly demonstrated his understanding of India’s history. Responding to an interview by a foreign press on the occasion of a visit to India, when asked by an American journalist about his opinion about the region of Kashmir, President Ho Chi Minh answered: “If it comes to Kashmir, one must mention Delhi, Bangladesh, Bombay, and more, so it will take a lot of time to discuss”(10). This answer demonstrated President Ho Chi Minh’s diplomatic skills and also showed his support for India in the issue of Kashmir, considering it “an inseparable territory of India”.

During the years of arduous resistance against imperialist aggression, the Vietnamese people never forgot the famous slogan in India: “Your name, My name, Our name: Vietnam, Vietnam”, which was very touching and showed the solidarity of the Indian people and Vietnamese people. It was a very solid foundation for the friendship of the two countries to continue to develop. On January 7, 1972, Vietnam and India formally established diplomatic relations, opening a new chapter in the relationship between the two countries.

It can be said that during the struggle for independence of these two peoples, President Ho Chi Minh and Prime Minister J. Nehru made tireless efforts for the development of the Vietnam - India friendship, laying a solid foundation for the friendship of the two countries which has continued to grow. 

2. Development of the Vietnam - India friendship in the current context

Following the good beginnings of friendship between the two countries laid by President Ho Chi Minh and Prime Minister J. Nehru beginning in the 1950s, during the Doi Moi period Vietnam always regarded India as a trustworthy, intimate, and faithful friend. Vietnam has always attached importance to strengthening and deepening the relationship with India, supporting India’s views on domestic, regional, and international issues. This is clearly reflected in the documents of the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam: “We are constantly strengthening and expanding friendship and cooperation with the Republic of India, a country of special importance in Asia and in the world, a great friend that has always given our people good feelings, support, and compassion”(11).

The development of the Vietnam - India relationship in recent years has proved the rightness of the vision of the Party and State of Vietnam on strategic foreign relations with India. Vietnam - India relations were reframed as a strategic partnership in 2007 and upgraded to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” in 2016, and the relationship is currently developing well in all areas, including politics - diplomacy, security - defense, economy, science - technology, culture, and education - training. Specifically, some recent highlights include:

In terms of politics and diplomacy, many official mutual visits of high-ranking leaders of the two countries have frequently taken place and become a feature of the Vietnam - India relationship. From the Vietnamese side, there were visits by President Truong Tan Sang (October 2011); Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, attending a Summit celebrating 20 years of ASEAN - India dialogue (December 2012); General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (November 2013); Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (October 2014); and President Tran Dai Quang (March 2018). On the Indian side, there have been visits by Vice President Hamid Ansari (January 2013); Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (August 2014); Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (September 2014); and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (September 2016). During each high-level visit, the two sides have made joint statements with very important points, working to establish a framework for cooperation and promotion of bilateral relations.

Regarding economic cooperation: with the help of the determination of the leaders of the two countries to promote economic relations on par with the potential for the collaboration - and due to numerous strengths, good political relations, and consistent economic and trade cooperation - the two-way trade turnover has increased dramatically over the years. In 2017, two-way trade turnover was estimated to be around $7.5 billion USD, up nearly 38% compared to 2016. The two countries are striving to reach $15 billion USD by 2020. Regarding investment, by the end of November 2017 India’s total registered investment capital in Vietnam reached $756 million USD, with 168 investment projects, ranking 28 of 126 countries and territories with investments in Vietnam. Vietnam currently has seven investment projects in India, with a total registered capital of $6.15 million USD, mainly in the field of animal feed products distribution, construction materials, cosmetic exports, and computer products.

Regarding security and defense cooperation, through the visits and working and learning experiences from each other, the friendship and mutual understanding between the two countries’ military forces have developed well. Vietnamese Minister of Defense and Indian Minister of Defense signed the “Joint Vision Statement on Vietnam - India Defense Cooperation for the period of 2015-2020” and the “Memorandum of Understanding between the Indian Coast Guard and the Coast Guard of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for the Establishment of the Collaborative Relationship to Combat Transnational Crime and Develop Mutual Cooperation”. Vietnam supports India in its implementation of the “Look East” policy.

Regarding culture and education cooperation, the two countries regularly coordinate the organization of cultural and artistic exchange programs to enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples. The implementation of the signed agreements regarding Vietnam - India cultural relations takes place in a diversified form rich in content, such as picture and painting exhibitions; publications, microfilm and rare book exchanges; scientific conferences; art union exchanges; experts exchanges; and anniversary and memorial celebrations marking meaningful events of the two countries.

In the field of education, cooperative relations between the two countries have developed well. Cooperation in the training field takes place in two forms: exchange of training experience and staff training support. The number of Indian scholarships for Vietnamese students is increasing and expanding to more disciplines. Through training cooperation programs, many Vietnamese officials trained in India have returned to contribute effectively to the construction and development of the country.

In short, the relationship between Vietnam and India, laid by President Ho Chi Minh and Prime Minister J. Nehru, has been cultivated constantly and diligently by different generations of leaders and the people of the two countries, and that is why the friendship has become more and more profound and durable. In particular, as Vietnam and India have become comprehensive strategic partners, it is the basis for strengthening and fostering the traditional relationship as well as the trust in each other’s politics, using each other’s potential and strengths to effectively promote the development of our two countries, thereby contributing to peace, stability, cooperation, and development in the region and the world.

_______________________

Endnotes:

(1), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.11, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, pp.304, 253, 254, 344, 355, 306, 342.

(2), (11) CPV: Documents of the 6th Party National Congress, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1987, p.402, 147.

(3), (4) Nguyen Van Khoan: Ho Chi Minh - The Symbol of Vietnam - India friendship, Information and Communication Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, p.85, 87.

References:

1. Pham Hong Chuong: India and Vietnam - India relations under the perspective of journalist Ho Chi Minh, Party’s History Journal, No.7 (296) / 2015, p.42-46.

2. Geetesh Sharma (translated by Ha Duy): Vietnam-India relations from the first century to the 21st century, Labour Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006.

3. Le Van Toan (Chief Editor): Vietnam - India, new context, new vision, Information and Communication Publishing House, Hanoi, 2017.

4. Le Van Toan (Chief Editor): Vietnam - India: 45 years of diplomatic relations and 10 years of strategic partnership, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2017.

5. Le Van Toan (Chief Editor), Mach Quang Thang, Geetesh Sharma ...: Vietnam - India relations in the field of culture, Information and Communication Publishing House, Hanoi, 2017.

6. Le Van Toan (Chief Editor), Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, ...: Vietnam - India relations in the field of economy, commerce, and energy, Information and Communication Publishing House, Hanoi, 2017.

7. Ha Anh Tuan: Vietnam - India relations in the context of “Look East policy”, Party’s History Journal, No. 2 (303) / 2016, pp.51-53.

Dr. Vo Thi Hoa

Academy of Journalism and Communication

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