I have great pleasure to come here and speak to you at the CSIS. In the audience, I am aware of the presence of many renowned scholars. Many of you have maintained long-standing interests in Vietnam. And many of you have made outstanding contributions to the relations between Vietnam and the United States. My compliments and best wishes to you all.
I appreciate the role of the CSIS as a pre-eminent strategic think tank in the United States and the world in fostering dialogue and understanding between the political circles, academics, and the public of the two nations. CSIS also plays a very important role in promoting awareness of issues relating to security, peace, stability and prosperity in the region. These are the concerns and interests that all nations share. And this is a very important and essential factor that helps promote the co-operation between Vietnam and the United States in the coming period.
I wish to raise a few thoughts on the strategic environment of the Asia Pacific, and bilateral relations between Vietnam and America in this context.
Current situation of Asia-Pacific
The profound and unprecedented changes in the world over the last decade have confirmed Asia Pacific as the most dynamic region in the 21st century. Asia Pacific leads the world in economic integration. We have ten out of twenty leading economies here. The flow of trade across the Pacific now accounts for two-thirds of the world’s total. The region also contributes 40% of the world’s total growth.
Today, Asia Pacific stands as a destination of opportunities for all countries in the world: (i) The United States shares its Pacific Rim with us; (ii) Europe enjoys long standing ties with Asia; And (iii) countries on the Indian Ocean are closely tied with the Pacific through the Malacca Straits. Economic prosperity of all countries – be it the United States, China, Japan, Korea or India and ASEAN member states – all contribute to the overall prosperity of the region. A prosperous Asia in its turns serves as a catalyst for the development of each country. The wealth of this region is tied to that of the rest of the world. And therefore, there is little wonder that today’s leading powers all place Asia Pacific at the forefront of their foreign policies.
These enormous opportunities offered by the region are conducive to the trend of co-operation and dynamic connectivity. Regional forums such as APEC and ASEM continue their important role linking Pacific Rim countries with Asia, and Asia with Europe. In the last several years, in addition to bilateral trade agreements, we note the emergence of multilateral trade arrangements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the free trade agreement in Northeast Asia. These linkages will make up a sizable share of world trade & eonomy and create new growth engine for and will lead to changes in the global economy. We can even speak of an eventual Free Trade Agreement that encompasses the entire Asia Pacific (FTAAP). Needless to say, the successful realisation of these linkages is of strategic importance to all of us.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our region has vast potentials to offer, but to translate them into reality requires an environment of peace in the region. Therefore, we must safeguard this environment of peace and stability. We must prevent and manage conflicts. This is a shared responsibility of all countries, within and outside the region.
I believe that the key to a secured peace and prosperity is to build and consolidate a regional structure. In this way, we can promote co-operation and create linkages among economies, among societies, in trade, politics, security, and culture. In this connection, ASEAN has an essential role to play. ASEAN countries lie at the crossroad between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. We connect all countries in the region, large and small. ASEAN is at the heart of regionalism in Asia . This is why all countries accept ASEAN centrality in the emerging regional architecture.
To ensure peace and security, ASEAN will bring into full use the established mechanisms and forums, and promote the development and implementation of instruments, norms and rules. To ensure the freedom, safety and security of navigation, ASEAN will promote dialogues, confidence building measures, full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and settlement of disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). Recently, ASEAN and China agreed to open formal consultations toward a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC). This is a positive, yet early sign, and we need to continue to work on it.
To promote its role as the nexus of economic and trade connectivity in Asia, ASEAN will double its efforts to forge linkages among bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements with a view toward a region-wide free trade agreement. The drive toward closer regionalism will serve as the catalyst for economic relations and intertwined interests, which in turn guarantees lasting peace and stability.
Major powers always maintain a grip on international relations, at multilateral forums and in Asia Pacific. To promote relations with external partners is a priority for both ASEAN and Vietnam. In the quest for a solution to regional security issues, what ASEAN wants to see is the maintenance of peace and stability, the effective operation of regional mechanisms, and the strict adherence to the international law. We hope that all powers will constructively engage in and contribute to this common endeavor. ASEAN shall not be a tool for confrontation or division as this will benefit no country, major powers or smaller countries alike.
In this context, the ASEAN Community of 2015 has become the foremost priority for all ASEAN member states. For us in Vietnam, this is a very important component of our foreign policy. We have been engaging ourselves in ASEAN affairs in a proactive, positive and responsible manner. We link our own interests with those of ASEAN. We strive to help enhance ASEAN’s role, stature, unity and consensus. Only by doing so can ASEAN have adequate strength to carry out successfully the Community. We will work with other member states to consolidate the role of the Association as the nucleus of regionalism. We will intensify our interaction in a profound way with our external partners for the common goals and interests.
Vietnam – US Relationship
Within this regional dynamism and prosperity, relations between Vietnam and the United States have broadened and taken off in many areas in depth, in breadth and in the quality of co-operation. If we look back on the long road that we have taken so far historically, we can realize the truly enormous dimensions of those steps and achievements.
You may be aware that President Ho Chi Minh stepped ashore the United States a hundred years ago on his journey for freedom and independence for his nation. He shared the universal aspiration of the mankind as stated by Thomas Jefferson in the 1776 Declaration that established the United States of America: The rights to life, equality, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In December 1946, not long after the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh wrote to President Harry Truman, in which he expressed the desire for the two nations to establish ‘full co-operation’. History has had many twists and turns. Not until 1995 did the nations establish formal diplomatic relations that opened a new chapter in the ties between Vietnam and the United States .
For Vietnam, a strengthened relationship with the United States is within the context of our foreign policy in which we seek to ensure independence, self-reliance, diversification and multilateralisation of relations, the overall international integration and the deepening of relations with important partners.
I just held talks with President Obama this morning. And I have the pleasure to announce to you: Vietnam and the United States have decided to form a Comprehensive Partnership between the two countries. Accordingly, our bilateral co-operation will expand to include all areas, including political, diplomatic, economic, trade, investment, education, science and technology, defense and security. I also held meetings with the Commerce Secretary, Agriculture Secretary, the US Trade Representative, World Bank President and IMF Executive Director, Senators and Congressmen, and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. President Obama and his Cabinet secretaries stressed that our two countries are having great opportunities to move the relationship forward, and that the United States are committed to boost co-operation with Vietnam in many fields, especially in trade, investment, economic ties. We will continue to establish mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation, with concrete plans, in order to deepen and bring substances to the growth of our relationship.
Another important element of this visit is that Vietnam and the United States have reiterated the determination and commitment to work with other partners to bring the TPP negotiations to a conclusion, in accordance with the planned roadmap. We look to a balanced agreement for development. With the eventual joining of this leading economic linkage, Vietnam has taken a giant step in our overall international integration and in the regional dynamism and prosperity. We hope to realize the benefits in trade, investment, technology, access to higher stages of the global and regional value and supply chains. We also look to create more jobs, to ensure social welfare and to bring the living standard of the population to a higher level.
Joining TPP will help accelerate economic restructuring and transformation of our growth model, and also help further improve the business environment. We do not expect this to be an easy process for a developing economy like ours. We will make our utmost effort, yet we also look to see more of the US side’s flexibility and co-operation. This is a very important factor. US business leaders whom I spoke to affirmed their strong support for our overall bilateral ties, especially trade and investment. And they would do their best to support a high-standard, comprehensive trade agreement that addresses the balanced interests of all parties. They would support a transitional period appropriate to Vietnam in the TPP process.
We are conscious that when our bilateral relations develop in a stable, lasting and substantial way, that matters not only to both countries, but also to regional peace, stability and prosperity. We welcome President Obama’s commitment to enhance co-operation with Asia Pacific for peace, stability and co-operation. The United States views ASEAN as the central pillar of this policy and supports ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture. The US also voices support for peace, stability, security and maritime security and safety in the Eastern Sea . Apart from TPP, Vietnam will accelerate cooperation with the United States at various forums, including ASEAN-led mechanisms, Lower Mekong cooperation, the East Asia Summit and APEC.
In the meantime, we need to continue our work on outstanding issues that remain between us. As a nation with a pacific tradition, Vietnam shelves the past and looks to the future. I am of the view that differences and disagreements exist as a matter of course in any international relation. What we need to do is to build confidence, to build our relationship on the respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty, equality, political system and the principle of mutual benefit.
Looking back on the history of Vietnam – US relations, the establishment of the Comprehensive Partnership today is the culmination of a forward-looking co-operation process pursued by both sides. It began with efforts for post-war normalisation of relations, then the establishment of diplomatic ties in July 1995, hence a new era of relations between the two countries and people. In the past 18 years, bilateral relations have made great strides. 2005 marked yet another milestone with the establishment of a friendly, constructive, and multi-faceted cooperative partnership on the basis of equality, mutual respect, and mutual benefit.
With the growth of bilateral ties comes the change in how we work together. The policy of embargo, encirclement, sanction as the modality of relations between the two ex-foes gave way to the policy of reconciliation, multifaceted cooperation and of forging constructive partnership under the principles of respect for each other’s political system, mutual benefit, dialogue and increased exchanges to bridge differences. Bilateral trade and economic ties have been growing fast. The U.S. became Vietnam ’s largest export market in 2005. Then within 18 years, bilateral trade saw a 54-fold increase. By the end of May 2013, US total investment in Vietnam amounted to US$10.5 billion, ranking seventh among countries and territories investing in our country. Co-operation in science, technology, culture, education, tourism, defense, security has all seen substantial growth. A range of activities has been conducted with fruitful results and positive impacts on both sides on such areas as healthcare, humanitarian co-operation like mine clearance, unexploded ordnance, consequences of Agent Orange and dioxin, accounting for missing people in the war.
On the topic of human rights, we accept that there are differences. The most viable way is to continue our dialogue in a frank manner so as to enhance understanding and to narrow differences. It is with that spirit that during the meeting with US Senators and Congressmen, we exchanged views in an open and friendly manner on our bilateral relations, including human rights and religious issues. I also invited several religious clergies from Vietnam to join me on this visit and they had very frank talks with American and international institutions who are interested in these issues.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The message I wish to emphasise is that Vietnam hopes to work with the United States to further this full co-operation in the interests of both nations. We should work together to nurture a peaceful, stable, dynamic and prosperous Asia Pacific. And we strive, we must strive harder in our co-operation for that common objective with the principle of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit.
I thank you, Dr John Hamre and other participants for your very cordial reception. I hope that CSIS will continue with your many conferences, seminars and roundtables in order to exchange ideas on the cooperation process in Asia Pacific. I hope that you will exchange ideas on how to boost the bilateral relations with Vietnam as well. I hope each of you will continue in your activities to contribute in a significant way toward this process, as you have done so far.
Posting granted exclusively for the Modern Diplomacy
(*)This speech was delivered by President Truong Tan Sang at the Centre of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC on July 25, 2013 during an official visit to the US. President highlighted the Vietnam-US relationship in a dynamic and prosperous Asia Pacific
A book on Nepal’s diplomatic story of co-existence
Recent diplomatic friction between Nepal and India over the new Nepali map including India-controlled territories of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura encouraged me to go though some Indian perspectives on the Nepal’s diplomacy.
For this, I revisited the book titled ‘FOREIGN POLICY OF NEPAL’ authored by Indian professor SD Muni. This PHD-thesis-cum-book published in 1973 gives some insights on Nepal’s diplomatic developments as an oldest sovereign country in the South Asia.
However, this book has some visible bias towards Nepal. For example, it ranks Nepal not as a diplomatic ‘power’ but only as a ‘mini power’. The author has given instances of Nepal’s military assistance proving instrumental to quell mutinies both in times of British India in 1857 and independent India in 1948. Nevertheless, he does not want to term Nepal as a diplomatic ‘power’ even in this era of peaceful diplomacy with soft powers. Still, in the chapter called ‘conclusion’, he concludes, ‘Nepal’s geographical location between India and China was also an asset since it placed the kingdom in a strategic position.’
Having read Nepal’s foreign policy perspective from an Indian angle of professor Muni, I came across the book titled ‘India meets China in Nepal’. Written by Girilal Jain, the editor of India’s top English daily The Times of India from 1978-1988, I got this book by the daughter of the author, Sandhya Jain. Jain, also a noted historian of India, generously mailed me the original PDF of this book.
Girilal Jain had close rapports with influential figures of Nepal including the then Prime Minister Tanka Prashad Acharya when he started working on this book from 1956-1957. He said he started working on this volume just after Nepal signed treaties on Tibet and economic assistance with northern neighbor China to which ‘many Indians were alarmed by this shift in Nepal’s foreign policy in favor of communist China.”
Jain has written this book with factual logics and interpretation of Nepali narration. Together with background and important treaties of Nepal and China, Nepal and India, this books includes chapters like ‘ end of Rana rule’, ‘experiment of democracy’, ‘the crisis deepens’, ‘first general elections’, ‘Indo-Nepalese relations’, ‘consequences of Tibet’.
In all of these chapters, Jain gives crystal clear facts of Nepal’s political, diplomatic and democratic practices. He has not diluted these facts with his unproven individual interpretations like most of the contemporary Indian journalists and intellectuals do.
The most important and must-read chapter is ‘Nepalese version of co-existence.’ Unlike, Indian state establishment and its sympathizers, Jain has not provoked Nepal’s diplomatic and economic engagements with northern neighbor China. He has made close observation of the premierships of Tanka Prashad Acharya and Dr. K.I. Singh. Acharya, Jian writes, was accused of being pro-China. On the other hand, Acharya’s successor Singh was vocally pro-India.
Singh even officially stood behind India in Kashmir conflict on 3 August 1957 saying, ”we shall support India on the issue over the Kashmir issue. There is no doubt about it. Kashmir was and is a part of India and the people of Kashmir desire live with the Indian union.”
This vocal pro-Indian stand of Nepal on the Kashmir issue is first and last. Sigh could not prolong his stay at Singhadurbar more than 110 days owing to this pro-India stand by diplomatically neutral Nepal. King Mahendra sacked him.
The author also pictures the then power games played by the then two opposing superpowers- USA and USSR. He justified this narration by saying, ”Soviet Government has also entered the race for winning over Nepal to its side. The Soviet Embassy has already been set up in Kathmandu; the American Embassy has already been opened because the US cannot allow itself to be beaten by Russian in this competition for influence in Nepal. Thus, Nepal has been drawn into the vertex of the cold war.”
This book gives every detailing of Nepal’s diplomatic dealing with its giant neighbor India and China ,to which it shares long borders of around 1800 and 1414 kilometer respectively, along with its neutrality towards the global diplomatic power plays exercised by the then world superpowers of US and USSR.
Despite being a well-versed book, the author, however, has made some wrong prediction and interpretation on Nepal’s communist parties. ”Should the strength of the Communist Party of grow in India, particularly in the bordering states of West Bengal, Bihar and U.P., Nepal will feel its impacts,” argues the author, ”If communism is finally routed in India, its fate will be sealed in Nepal as well.”
At a time when the 34-year-old communist-run state state of West Bengal has been ousted in bordering India, Nepal has seen the most powerful community government in Nepali history with close to two-thirds of seats in the parliament and six out of seven state governments, author’s narration has come untrue.
Many global political pundits are picturing a new version of cold war between China and USA in the post-pandemic world. The ongoing border tensions between immediate neighbors of India and China are also at play. At this critical juncture, Nepal needs to stay stronger on its neutrality more than ever. The book ‘India meets China in Nepal’ published in 1959 can be a brief reminder of Nepal’s deeds towards this end.
The theatrics before the Quad Meeting
Authors: Mozammil Ahmad and Sruthi V S*
According to a Hindustan Times report, an anonymous senior US state department official has dismissed the talk for formalizing the Quad ahead of the ministerial Quad meeting to be held in Tokyo on 6th October.
The Quad or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is the informal forum between the US, Japan, Australia and India. Its origin goes back to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. The adjunct grouping of US, India, Japan and Australia as the ‘Tsunami Core Group’ was formed to respond to tsunami. The concept of a “Quadrilateral Initiative” as a strategic alliance was first proposed as a dialogue in 2007. It was proposed by the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo to form a multilateral dialogue with Japan, the United States and Australia but it fell in 2008. Then, in 2017, the quad was revived and it began convening on a semi-regular basis.
US and the Quad
The US interest in Quad began when it found itself in a strategic competition with China. The US has been rethinking its stance against China before the coronavirus outbreak. The 2017 National Security Strategy of the Trump administration asserted that China seeks to challenge America’s power and influence. Meanwhile the 2018 National Defence Strategy termed Beijing as the “strategic competitor.” China expanded its international influence through its economy and the BRI to challenge the existing world order. However, during the pandemic, the US-China tensions have accelerated. This led the US to explore alliances in the Indo-Pacific region.
The first instance of US interest in the Quad began in March 2020 when the US initiated a weekly online meeting between Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Beigun and his counterparts in India, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, South Korea, and New Zealand to discuss and exchange views on how to deal with the pandemic. This initiative of the US is more than just exchange views, it also became a coalition of countries with similar views on China. The core countries of the Quad – India, Japan, Australia, are facing their respective security challenges posed by China forming a ”Quad Plus”.
Therefore, the upcoming ministerial Quad meeting holds strategic importance for the US to form a counter to China’s posture under President Xi Jinping.
Then why is the US not eager to formalize the Quad?
In international relations, there is no selflessness. Every move must extract all possible gains. I propose the consideration of the following three factors for the recent US stance-
The US economy has plunged 31.4% for the April-June quarter. Economists expect the US GDP to fall even more, making it the first time it has decreased since the financial crisis of 2008. Gregory Daco, the chief US economist at Oxford Economics has said, “With economic momentum cooling, fiscal stimulus expiring, flu season approaching and election uncertainty rising, the main question is how strong the labor market will be going into the fourth quarter.” The economic condition of the US is not such to fully commit and invest in a multilateral alliance.
US Presidential Election
The October 6 meeting is being held when the US Presidential election is only a month away. There is an ongoing aggressive campaign battle between Donald Trump and Joe Biden for the Presidential election. Both Democrats and Republicans are wooing American-Indian community towards their side. While Democrats project Kamala Harris as a multiracial VP candidate, the Republicans are highlighting Trump-Modi friendship to consolidate support for their respective parties.
The Hindustan Times report mentions that “human rights organisation Amnesty International’s decision to shut down its India operations had “received attention at the highest levels” of the Trump administration and it was being followed “very, very closely” by members of US congress.”
This is not yet an official statement of the US State Department. With the reportage in the Indian English media and clear indication towards a domestic event of India, it could be seen as a pressure tactic on the Indian government. With the Trump campaign’s reliance on friendship with Modi, this could be a subtle way of asking the Modi government to appreciate the friendship. Hence, increasing Trump’s appeal to the American-Indian community.
This is also a typical strategic way to use the soft power of media to influence diplomacy. Maybe U.S wished to propose a few trade deals favourable for them and reports of lack of keenness of U.S to formalize quad may influence other countries to agree to the demands of U.S and appease it.
At a U.S-India Strategic Partnership Forum in August, when asked about the attempts to formalize the Quad Plus, the US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun remarked that ”so as long as we keep the purpose right and as long as we keep the ambitions checked to start with a very strong set of members, I think it’s worth exploring an (inaudible) like that, although it only will happen if the other countries are as committed as the United States.”
The new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suge spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last week where both the leaders agreed to hold summits and other high-level meetings to cooperate in bilateral, regional and international issues. The goodwill conversation is considered as the improvement for China-Japan relations.
The US could be questioning the commitment of the fellow members of the Quad, and refraining from formalizing it. The recent statement has also mentioned that, “America wanted to strengthen existing regional architectures, not create new ones.”
The Quad plus meeting held on 6th October reflected a continuation of their past style of cooperation. The four ministers agreed to convene regular meetings with the next meeting scheduled for next year. For now, the Quad is considered symbolic, though the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made remarks to potentially institutionalize Quad. However, much is happening in the world, with the global pandemic, economic slowdown faced by many countries and the US Presidential election, to suggest the future course of the Quad.
*Sruthi V S– Sruthi is a Consultant with Qrius (formerly The Indian Economist). She has previously taught as Assistant Professor in Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Delhi, India. Her research interest includes art, culture, world, media, politics.
Bhutan – India: A multi- dimensional relationship. interview with H.E. Amb. Ruchira Kamboj
India and Bhutan have shared an interesting relationship for a very long time. They are geopolitical neighbours, trade partners and friends. In this conversation with Modern Diplomacy, Her Excellency Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj, Ambassador of India to Bhutan sheds more light on the India Bhutan relationship and her work in the Indian Foreign Services.
When did you decide that you wanted to join the foreign services? Tell us more about your journey.
That was quite early I would say – while in school. I enjoyed the pursuit of, and discussions on international relations, and greatly looked forward to actual practice! I guess I was fortunate and quite blessed that this aspiration came true.
The relations between India and Bhutan have been historically significant and more so now when the former’s relations with few other neighbours seem to be muffled with confusion and disturbances. What do you believe will strengthen India – Bhutan’s bond even more?
Bhutan and India are bound together by ties of geography, history, culture, spiritual traditions and centuries old people-to-people interactions.
The special friendship has not only benefited our two nations, it has also created an example for the whole world, an epitome of two nations, of two different sizes, living together for collective growth, bound by an unparalleled friendship.
Both Bhutan and India have young populations. Both Bhutan and India are rapidly transforming societies. A greater focus on youth-centric activities both sides through enhanced exchanges and connectivities, in particular in those sectors where India brings unique strengths to the table, such as IT, STEM, Start-Ups, could potentially be hugely beneficial for further growth and progress. As one tiny example, this year itself, eight Bhutanese students have entered our IITs against their chosen Masters’ Programmes.
This ties in with His Majesty’s vision and focus on STEM, where technology is rapidly transforming the world around us, and where the pace of scientific advancement is relentless in its pursuit towards creation.
What other plans and bilateral agreements can we foresee other than energy (hydroelectric) and tourism that will be a boon for both the South Asian countries?
The relationship between Bhutan and India today is multi- dimensional encompassing diverse sectors, not being limited to the traditional sectors but opening up to new and emerging spaces such as financial technology cooperation, IT, Start-Ups and Space Science and Technology, for mutually beneficial growth and cooperation.
I am pleased to share and following the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Bhutan in 2019, action has matched talk, and we are well into implementing much of what was envisaged during this memorable visit, reflective of our commitment to advancing the economic and infrastructural development of Bhutan, per the priorities and wishes of the Government and the people of Bhutan.
Speaking of energy diplomacy, what are your personal views on the environment and climate change? What lessons can the world learn from Bhutan’s carbon-negative approach?
There are no two views that the world needs to think and act green, to support sustainable growth. India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has embarked upon a massive upward trajectory as we seek to harness solar and wind energy to power our future. The International Solar Alliance is one example -since 2015, this 87 signatory-alliance is propelling Earth to a low-carbon growth path. Similarly, the Coalition for Disaster-Resilient Infrastructure aims at a climate-change and disaster-resilient future for all.
As for Bhutan, you are truly an example to the world, having envisioned the “requirement” to be green in your country’s constitution, and being practically the world’s only carbon negative country. Importantly, you are not just resting on past laurels but diversifying slowly but steadily into new spaces- into renewable energy such as solar and wind power; towards green transport; the ban on single-use plastic etc. These, among others, are examples of a country that is deeply respectful and committed to the environment. This is without doubt a tribute to the vision and leadership provided by the Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan, as most recently reiterated at the UN Secretary General’s High Level RoundTable on Climate Action by Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering.
As mentioned before, both countries have also been focusing on cross-cultural tourism with initiatives like digital payments making the process more convenient. Can you speak more about this and the different contours that need to be strengthened?
We share His Majesty’s vision for harnessing technology towards economic development and towards strengthening our partnership in new areas such as digital and emerging technologies, financial integration etc.
To this end, Prime Ministers Shri Narendra Modi and Dr. Lotay Tshering had launched the first phase of the Rupay Card in 2019. With this , Indian citizens have been facilitated in making payments with their Indian bank-issued debit cards, in Bhutan. A second phase to be launched in 2020 , will enable the use of Bhutanese bank-issued RuPay Cards across Points of Sale terminals in India. This will benefit all Bhutanese citizens who visit India for education, medical treatment, pilgrimage, work or tourism.
This cross border financial integration will further facilitate our warm people-to-people contacts and integrate furthermore the economies of our two countries.
Your father was an Army officer and your mother, a Professor at Delhi University. Do you credit your success to the environment you were brought up in? How important do you think are parents’ support to a child for achieving some feat?
I would agree with you that the early childhood years are critical in shaping future orientation. I was fortunate and blessed in having a vision and values through personal examples from my parents, that have stood me in good stead. I wish that for every child on this planet-that their potential is fully realised in safety and with opportunity.
You seem to have an eye for Bhutanese art and culture. You also have been promoting a film called Lunana recently. Tell us more about that.
It is always a privilege to serve as India’s Representative abroad and to get a rare insight each time into a country’s culture and way of being, so to speak. The more so, with a country like Bhutan, which offers such a rich and unique mosaic, in itself.
Speaking of “Lunana”, I was personally thrilled that this will be Bhutan’s official entry to the Oscars, an exquisite opportunity for the world to learn more about this singularly unique country.
Tell us about your previous experiences, of representing India at UNESCO and being a high commissioner to South Africa.
There are no two ways about this: it is an outstanding honour each time to bat for India. It was thus my privilege to serve both as Ambassador of India within the multilateral settings of UNESCO, Paris and as High Commissioner of India for South Africa, a country with which India has a shared history and importantly and going forward, an equally rich future.
If not Foreign Service, what else would you have pursued?
I am indeed fortunate to have lived my dream, I had frankly only envisaged this as a career.
What is the most important lesson you have learned in the 33 years of your glorious service?
A simple message: lead by example.
A message to the young Indians who want to represent their country globally.
I would unequivocally and unhesitatingly say this to my Indian friends that if you do wish to represent your country globally, the best way to do so is through the Indian Foreign Service, an opportunity and a challenge, like no other!
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