ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Vietnam: A 40-Year Perspective

In the mid-1970s, the author was posted in Hanoi in the Indian Embassy of the recently triumphant North Vietnam when she wrote of the country ("From Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City," EPW, 1 October 1977). On a visit back four decades later she finds a different country where the same indomitable spirit that felled the United States has ushered in development that minimises environmental degradation and economic disparities.

In 1975 I was posted as a young diplomat in Hanoi. I recall the modest celebrations held around the Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of town to mark the victorious end of Vietnam’s legendary long walk to liberation. The American superpower had been defeated by a small, technologically underdeveloped country.

The following year my request as one of the first diplomats to visit the reconstruction zone of the devastated areas of South Vietnam was graciously accepted by the foreign office in Hanoi. I travelled in a small military aircraft to Saigon, soon to become Ho Chi Minh City, and then north west of it to the reconstruction area of Cu Chi. I wrote about the privilege of seeing an almost forbidden territory in an article entitled “From Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City” which was later published in EPW (1 October 1977). At the time, Vietnam was still not united. The South was under the Provisional Revolutionary Government. The American forces had withdrawn in April 1975 after devastating the land with more bombs than were used in World War II. During the time of my posting in Hanoi, Cambodia was in the process of what came to be known as a “Killing Field.” Without knowing fully what was going on I wanted to visit that country, but it was out of the question those days.

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