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India mulling easing visa for ASEAN to boost Buddhist tourism


India today said it is considering liberalising visa for the 10-member ASEAN to boost Buddhist tourist arrivals due to links of “shared heritage” including spread of Buddhism across parts of southeast Asia from India.

“The spread of Buddhism from India is attributed to Emperor Ashoka, who sent Buddhist emissaries to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Indian mythology and folklore finds reflection here,” Vice President Hamid Ansari said in his address at the Chulalongkorn University here.

He said the trident of ‘Commerce, Culture and Connectivity’ defines the future focus areas of cooperation between ASEAN members and India.

Ansari, who flew into this southeast Asian country on the first visit by an Indian Vice President in half a century, noted that from Borobudur in Indonesia to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, India’s shared heritage finds an “exuberant manifestation”.

“The Thai epic, Ramakien is based on the Ramayana. The Ahoms, the Khamtis and the Khasis have links with Thai people. In modern times, many Indians emigrated to South East Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

“Their descendants today constitute a vibrant community of people of Indian origin, contributing actively to their respective countries of adoption.

“In consideration of these links, India is considering the feasibility of liberalising our visa regime for ASEAN countries to facilitate Buddhist tourist arrivals,” he said.

During his address on ‘India, Thailand and ASEAN: Contours of a rejuvenated relationship’ at the prestigious university, the vice president also referred to the re-establishment of the Nalanda University, which has strong support from several ASEAN members, and said efforts are on to set up a similar world-class varsity.

“Nalanda was once a world-renowned knowledge hub where scholars from around the world, including South East Asia and India, exchanged knowledge and ideas. Now, we are working to create a similar world class university in the 21st century, with the support of our East Asian partners, and have offered scholarships to students from CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) to study there,” Ansari added.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) has 10 member states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


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