India-Vietnam relations: contextualizing the Indo-Pacific region
India and Vietnam share a deep historic bond. Emerging from a sense of history, the two nations also have cultural and economic linkages that date back over 2000 years. Notably, in the second half of the 2nd century, BC two Indian Buddhist Zen monks; Mahajavaka and Kalyanacuriare credited with founding Buddhism in Vietnam. Later, in the 3rd century AD K’ang-Seng-Huey, a famous Zen monk, first migrated to India and subsequently traveled to Vietnam. Through the course of the 13th and 14th century AD, many other tantric monks from India including Yogibrahman visited Vietnam and were well received by the Tran dynasty. While impacting the living culture, Vietnamese art and architecture are also known to have been immensely influenced by the then prosperous Indian kingdoms.
Time and again, India has given continuous support to Vietnam starting from the days of the Champa Kingdom through the colonial, postcolonial, Cold War, and Post Cold War phases including the much recent Act East policy. India has played a key role in the peace process of Vietnam in the course of the 20th century. It supported Vietnam’s independence from France, opposed the U.S. involvement in the war, and supported the unification of Vietnam.
In fact, India was one of the few countries to have consulate-level ties with North and South Vietnam. Ho Chin Minh, a former President of Vietnam, had even gone on to describe the relations between India and Vietnam as flourishing under a“cloudless sky”. In the mid-nineties, ties between both countries further strengthened when Vietnam joined ASEAN in 1995. Over time, the two countries have developed strong relations with strategic engagements through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-led multilateral mechanisms.