Vice president leaves on Brunei, Thailand visit

New Delhi, Feb 1 (IANS) Vice President Hamid Ansari left on Monday for a five-day visit to Brunei and Thailand.

This will be the first visit by an Indian vice president to Brunei and the first in 50 years to Thailand.

During his visit to Brunei from February 1 to 3, he will meet the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah.

“Brunei has become an important partner and ally for India in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations),” Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry, told the media here ahead of the visit.

“Brunei has played a very important role as India-Asean coordinator from 2013 to 2015,” he added.

Brunei supported India’s stand on Jammu and Kashmir and its candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

The trade volume between India and Brunei is about $1 billion, most of which is made up of crude oil. Potential gas requirements can also be met from Brunei.

“Petroleum products as well as organic chemicals, metal ores and scraps are the other commodities that we import from Brunei,” Wadhwa said.

“Our main exports to Brunei consist of transportation equipment, meat and meat products and gems and jewellery.”

He said that during the visit, the issues that would come up for discussion are civil aviation, space, trade and investment, ICT and hydrocarbons.

Memorandums of understanding (MoUs) are expected to be signed on health and defence cooperation, Wadhwa said.

Ansari will also address members of the Indian community.

There are over 10,000 Indian professionals in Brunei and, according to Wadhwa, there is a great deal there for them, particularly those who were working as teachers and doctors.

Ansari will then visit Thailand from February 3 to 5 at the official invitation of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Apart from holding a meeting with Prayut, Ansari will also have an audience with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who is a scholar in Sanskrit, Wadhwa said.

Ansari will deliver a speech on India’s Look East and Act East policy at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and also address members of the Indian community.

India-Thailand trade now stands at around $8.66 billion.

Ansari will also briefly visit the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

“The relationship between India and Thailand has traditionally been very close,” said Wadhwa, adding that Thailand was an important partner in India’s strategic partnership with Asean.

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