More than 2,000 years before the birth of Christ, intrepid Indian traders had braved the sea to reach distant shores in Southeast Asia. There were ‘colonies’ of Indians that influenced local rulers at times converting them to Hinduism or Buddhism. Indianised kingdoms like Funan and Champa (in present-day Vietnam) flourished for centuries and marked important destinations on the historic Spice Route. While Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia are familiar to many of us, few can readily recall the cultural affinities with what later fell under French sway and was labelled Indo-China. The long-drawn liberation war also distracted from ‘non-strategic’ matters.
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