Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari will embark on a five-day trip to Brunei and Thailand in early February to deepen India’s ties with the two Southeast Asian states, the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed last week.
Ansari’s Southeast Asian voyage will begin with an official trip to Brunei from February 1 to 3 – the first high-level visit to the tiny, oil-rich sultanate from India since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1984. The trip, originally scheduled for last November, has to be cancelled when the Bali airport closed because of spewing volcanic ash from a nearby mountain in Indonesia, delaying Ansari’s travel arrangements (See: “India’s Vice President on ASEAN Voyage to Indonesia, Brunei”).
According to a press release by the Ministry of External Affairs seen by The Diplomat, the Brunei visit will include meetings with the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah as well as an address to the Indian community and one to the University of Brunei Darussalam. Both sides are expected to discuss a range of issues including civil aviation, trade and investment, energy, information and communication, and space cooperation, and memorandums of understanding in the fields of health and defense are likely to be signed.
In Thailand, where he will be from February 3 to 5, Ansari will be making the first visit by an Indian vice president in 50 years. He will hold a meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as well as Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who is a scholar in Sanskrit. He will also deliver a speech on the evolution of India’s Look East Policy at the prestigious Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and address the Indian community in Thailand at a reception hosted by India’s ambassador to Thailand. Ansari will also briefly visit the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, with a banquet hosted by the governor and a trip to the Royal Development Study Center on Sustainable Development.
Few public details were provided as to the agenda of this leg on the visit, though the External Affairs Ministry did emphasize the importance of Thailand as part of India’s relationship of ASEAN as a whole and laud the recent high-level exchanges that have boosted ties (See: “India, Thailand Pledge to Deepen Defense Ties”).
“Sustained high level bilateral exchanges and regular meetings of bilateral institutional mechanisms have provided a major fillip to India-Thailand relations and achieved progress in key areas of cooperation such as security, defense, commerce, science & technology, and education,” the Ministry said in a press release.
During his latest ASEAN voyage, Ansari will be accompanied by a minister of state and four members of parliament.