Act East: VP Ansari begins crucial Cambodia, Laos visit

RSTV Bureau
Phnom Penh: Vice President Hamid Ansari being received by Khieu Kanharith, the Cambodian Minister of Information, at Phnom Penh International Airport in Cambodia on September 15, 2015. Photo - PTI

Phnom Penh: Vice President Hamid Ansari being received by Khieu Kanharith, the Cambodian Minister of Information, at Phnom Penh International Airport in Cambodia on September 15, 2015.
Photo – PTI

Vice President Md. Hamid Ansari arrived in Cambodia Tuesday morning in a bid to strengthen India’s Act East policy. In his crucial four-day visit to Cambodia and Laos, Vice President Ansari will be seeking to boost India’s enduring partnership and enhanced economic engagement with ASEAN countries under its Act East policy. Speaking to the press pack earlier on board, the Vice President said the trip is important and it is essential to step up ties with these countries.

“Both the countries have gone through a lot of turmoil in the past and we have helped them. Whenever a need arose, be it in the international organisations, UN missions, we have helped these countries and even today whatever we can do through different projects we are helping them,” the Vice President said.

On landing, the Vice President was received at Cambodia’s Phnom Penh International Airport by Cambodia’s Minister of Information Khieu Kanharitha and Indian Ambassador Naveen Shrivastava.

On his first visit to Cambodia Vice President Md. Hamid Ansari would be holding official talks with the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The VP will focus particularly on shoring up bilateral trade and investment which both the sides acknowledge has a tremendous potential. The leaders of the two countries are also expected to lay emphasis on strengthening the mutual areas like stepping up trade, investment, tourism and cultural linkages.

“If you look at distances, these countries like Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos are close to the North East states. All the countries are working on connectivity so as connectivity increases, the North East will benefit the most,” the Vice President said talking about the proposals for connectivity within the region that could benefit India’s North East states.

Phnom Penh: Vice President Hamid Ansari and his wife Salma Ansari on their arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport in Cambodia on September 15, 2015. Photo - PTI

Phnom Penh: Vice President Hamid Ansari and his wife Salma Ansari on their arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport in Cambodia on September 15, 2015.
Photo – PTI

Besides holding bilateral talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun, Vice President Hamid Ansari will also meet National Assembly President Heng Samrin and call on Acting Head of State and President of the Senate Say Chhum. The VP will also give a lecture on Cambodia-India Relations at the Office of the Council of Ministers followed by the visit to Angkor Wat temple and the Ta Prohm temple in Siem Reap province.

“These are vestiges of our common cultural links. So restoration of cultural sites is an ongoing exercise all over the world, whether it is in South America, whether it is in South Asia or whether it is in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Vice President Ansari also spoke about the security cooperation with Southeast Asian countries especially in light of them being used for crimes like fake currency and other heinous crimes.

“The nature of security threat varies from one place to another but we have had regular discussions on these matters with the two governments (of Cambodia and Laos) and we find them very cooperative,” he said.

Also speaking on the cooperation between the ASEAN countries, the Vice President said that there is space for both India and China to invest in Cambodia.

“We are doing what we can do best, capacity building, some specialised areas of assistance like water resources, telecommunication, transmission lines and these patterns. China is doing it on a different scale. I think there is space for both,” Ansari told reporters on his way to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

Vice President Ansari will also be meeting the members of Indian community in Cambodia as India looks to step up its participation in infrastructure projects and capacity building.

After visiting the Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm temples, Vice President Hamid Ansari will leave for Laotian capital city of Vientiane on Thursday. His visit to Laos will be the first by an Indian Vice President.

(With inputs from the agencies)