Vice President Hamid Ansari today held talks with the top Laotian leadership on a host of issues including bolstering bilateral trade and investment as part of India's push to strengthen its economic engagement with ASEAN nations.
Ansari, who arrived here yesterday for a two-day visit, the first by an Indian Vice President to this country, held talks with his counterpart Bounnhang Vorachith at the presidential palace after which delegation-level parleys took place.
Two MoUs, including one on "quick impact projects" and another on air services agreement, were signed between the two sides after the talks.
Indian firm WAPCOS was also handed over certificate of completion of Champassak irrigation project.
Ansari also called on Laos President Choummaly Sayasone and met Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong.
The Vice President, who was given a ceremonial welcome this morning at the presidential palace, also laid a wreath at the Soldiers' Monument built to commemorate Laos' heroes.
He also visited the That Luang Stupa, which has a relic from Buddha that was brought from India in the 2nd century BC.
"This sacred stupa, Laos' National symbol is a testament of the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation that exist between our two countries. Our destinies were linked with the ancient past and will continue to be linked and flourish in the distant future," Ansari wrote in the visitors' book.
Ansari's visit to Laos and Cambodia comes in the backdrop of India's pitch to strengthen economic engagement with ASEAN countries.
During his visits to both Cambodia and Laos, Ansari has emphasised on the importance India attaches to forging close ties with ASEAN nations in particular with CLMV countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
"We regard the ASEAN grouping and in fact the whole of Southeast Asia as an area in our immediate neighbourhood. The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) put it recently that Look East Policy is not sufficient it has to be an Act East Policy and as part of that endeavour, we are actively, consciously building political linkages, economic linkages, trade linkages and above all retaining and reviving cultural linkages which go back a long time," Ansari said last night at a reception here hosted in his honour by Indian Ambassador to Cambodia Ravi Shankar Aisola.
Talking about importance of ties with Laos, Ansari had said that "it is a small country but small countries also have a place under the sun and we in India have been very conscious of it."
"Apart from our earlier relationship, the more recent relationship which is even more important is the ASEAN grouping," he said.
Talking about India-Laos economic engagement, Secretary East Anil Wadhwa, ahead of the visit, had said, "India-Laos commercial ties need to be strengthened because the present bilateral trade is not reflective of our potential.
"There seems to be a need for an interaction between industry chambers, participation in each other's exhibition etc and the Indian private sector will be encouraged by this visit to explore opportunities in Laos."
Total trade between India and Laos in 2013-2014 was USD 89.29 million.