A series of events will take place this year to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries and the 2012 Year of Friendship, announced Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Ranjit Rae.

"President Ho and Prime Minister Nehru laid the foundation for a very close and cordial relationship between the two countries," said Rae. "The festivities during the Year of Friendship will provide further impetus to the strong bonds between Vietnam and India ."

A performance by 21 members of the Odissi Dance Troupe, led by Sharmila Biswas launched the series of events on April 5 in Hanoi . The dancers will now move on to perform in Hai Phong, Da Nang and HCM City . They will also appear at the Hue Festival on April 7-15.

Next up will be a digital art exhibition entitled Kalpana (Imagination), on display in April and May.

The exhibition Masterpieces of Figurative Indian Contemporary Paintings, will open with a ceremony on April 24 at the Vietnamese Culture and Arts Exhibition Centre at 2 Hoa Lu Street in Hanoi .

During the exhibition, Indian and Vietnamese painters will lead a joint workshop in Hanoi , and the Indian painters will lecture at the Hanoi University of Fine Arts.

At mid-year, in a seminar on Champa linkages to Indian culture, six Indian and Vietnamese scholars will highlight the cultural ties between the two nations.

"The linkages between India and Vietnam through Champa civilisation are long-standing," said Rae. "It was a unique confluence of two ancient and rich cultures."

India will also grant 3 million USD to assist Vietnam in the restoration and conservation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at My Son, a vestige of the Champa civilisation in the central province of Quang Nam.

Researchers and archaeologists of the two countries have worked together to specify the area to restore, and the project will be carried out as soon as a memorandum of co-operation is signed this year, Rae said.

Other events planned for this year include Indian food festivals in Hanoi , HCM City and other major Vietnamese cities, which will also include peformances of Indian folk songs and dances, he said.

In August, the two countries will co-ordinate to present a multimedia exhibition on India-Vietnam relations at the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi . The main aspects of the exhibition will focus on the friendship and interaction between the great national leaders Pandit Jawahrlal Nehru and Ho Chi Minh, the development of diplomatic relations in the past 40 years, and an introduction to India depicting various aspects of its culture, history and science with the theme A Glimpse of India, Rae said.

An Indian Film Week will take place in several Vietnamese cities in September, giving Vietnamese audiences a chance to experience popular Bollywood films.

The two sides also planned to open direct air routes between the two countries pursuant to a recent memorandum of understanding between Vietnam Airlines and Jet Airways, as well as open an Indian Cultural Centre in Hanoi .

To mark the Year of Friendship, the Indian Government has also decided to double scholarships for Vietnamese students this year as well as fund several other education and training projects in Vietnam , Rae said.-VNA