“Want To Be Reborn As Vietnamese”: George Fernandes Said 15 Years Ago
Former defence minister George Fernandes, who died on Tuesday after a prolonged illness, had praised Vietnam and expressed his fondness for the country about 15 years ago. “If there is a rebirth, I would like to be born as a Vietnamese,” Mr Fernandes had reportedly said at a conference in Bengaluru. He was the defence minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet when described Vietnamese people as a disciplined, committed and determined lot. He was speaking at the annual conference of Karnataka Planters Association.
Mr Fernandes said Vietnam had a large share of the world coffee market, George Fernandes remarked: “I am not grudging that; I am an admirer of Vietnam”, and heaped praise on the southeast Asian country and its people for their rapid progress, “If there is a rebirth, I would like to be born as a Vietnamese”, Mr Fernandes said. “They are ready to die for their commitment,” he said.
Mr Fernandes was the first Indian defence minister to have visited Vietnam.
He noted that three million Vietnamese had been killed in conflicts with the US, France and China. According to him, Vietnam was leaving India behind in per capita income. This was “after all the devastation that Vietnam had to go through… none that we (India) had to go through in recent years”, he had said.
He cited Vietnam as an example as to how a country can be determined and innovative and think 100 years ahead.
Mr Fernandes, a long-time socialist, rose to political prominence when he led the Bombay Taxi Unions Association and defeated the “uncrowned king of Bombay” SK Patil, a Congress heavy-weight, in the 1967 general election.
A firebrand, George Fernandes, only 37 then, campaigned tirelessly, covering large swathes of the constituency with his workers. And when the results were declared, he unseated the ‘king’ with 48.5 per cent of the votes.