“Our the biggest cultural connect with Southeast Asia today is travel and tourism, India is the number one source of foreign tourist arrivals in Thailand and it is likely to sustain this position for a while that too by distance. Singapore and Malaysia are also popular destinations but SE Asia offers a lot more, places where travel opportunities have not been discovered the future belongs to the rest of Southeast Asia” said Vikram Doraiswami, Joint Secretary, Bangladesh, Myanmar & Indo- Pacific Division, Ministry of External Affairs.
Doraiswami explained the travel opportunities SE Asian countries offers “Visa on arrival facility is available for Indians in Thailand and Myanmar. Indigo would be starting flight services Kolkata and Yangon in September. Those who don’t go to Myanmar are missing out as it has a lot to offer and is very economical, if you do not go today you would regret it as 10 years from now when you do go you will be much more expensive. “
He picked heritage conservation as another area of co operation between India and SE Asia “We are working with our partners in Southeast Asia for conserving heritage for example we worked on renovation of Angkor Wat. We have worked on Mỹ Sơn relics in Central Vietnam but a lot needs to be done as these were completely destroyed during the Vietnam War. We are working with Myanmar to conserve some of the iconic temples of Bagan (a World Heritage site) we would soon be undertaking a project to conserve 92 Pagodas in Bagan in Myanmar which is not exactly a large number as there are 3800 pagodas in Bagan.”
He disclosed some of the plans of the Ministry of External Affairs for enhancing relations with ASEAN countries “We would be organizing a ‘Civilizational Connect Conference’ in Hanoi in October, it would be done in collaboration with Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences where we can identify specific areas of targeted research in the cultural field. Traditional medicine is another area where there is a huge opportunity to study our own traditional medicine and healing system and mainstreamize them.”