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Remarks by Gen (Dr.) VK Singh (Retd.), Minister of State at the 9th MGC Ministerial Meeting in Singapore

August 04, 2018

Opening Remarks

Your Excellency, Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand
Your Excellency, Mr. Prak Sokhonn, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Kingdom of Cambodia
Your Excellency, Mr. Saleumxay Kommasith, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR
Your Excellency, U Kyaw Tin, Union Minister for International Cooperation, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Your Excellency, Mr. Phạm Bình Minh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

  • I would like to extend deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones and friends due to the collapse of the Xepiane Xe Nam Noy dam in Attapeau Province of Democratic Republic of Lao PDR. Your Excellency, Mr Saleumxay Kommasith, I extend to you, your government and the people of Lao PDR, the solidarity and friendship of the Indian people and our assurance that we stand ready to extend any assistance that may be needed.
  • I take this opportunity to congratulate Cambodia for holding very successful elections. We look forward to continuing our warm and friendly relations that received a major boost during Prime Minister Hun Sen’s State visit to India in January this year.
  • Excellencies, I would like to thank the Mekong Ganga Cooperation & the MGC Co-Chair, the Kingdom of Thailand for coordinating this ministerial meeting. Coincidentally, Thailand has taken over as our country coordinator in ASEAN for the next 3 years. It will also assume the Chairmanship of ASEAN next year. So we are in in very good hands. I also like to thank the Hon’ble Ministers from other participating countries - Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam & Myanmar for kindly making it convenient to attend today’s meeting. Your presence signifies the importance you attach to Mekong Ganga Cooperation
  • We attach the greatest importance to our coordination with the MGC since its inception in the year 2000.MGC as a sub-regional group of six countries, has achieved tremendous success and resonance. The Mekong and Ganga river basins share close civilizational and cultural links. We have much in common. This has provided a strong basis of our cooperation today.
  • Excellencies, I invite you all to watch a short 3 minutes film on India: The land of Buddha which underscores our cultural links.

    (Once the film is over)

  • Excellencies, I thank you for watching the film.
  • While acknowledging our ancient bonds that this film captures, it is equally important to recognize the importance of our present day relation and to identify new areas of cooperation. This will enable our sub regional group to remain relevant and dynamic.
  • I am happy to note that from the time we last held our Ministerial meeting in Philippines in August 2017, we have achieved substantial progress in implementing proposals from the Plan of Action 2016-18.
  • We organized the 1st Joint Committee Meeting for Cooperation in MSME sector in September 2017 in New Delhi. The 1st Meeting of of the 8th Working Group on Health for Information and Cooperation in Pandemics (Malaria & Dengue) Management was held in New Delhi in November 2017. We also held the first meeting of the MGC Business Forum on 24 January 2018 in New Delhi just before the ASEAN India Commemorative Summit. Each of these events was well attended by participants from the Mekong countries. We held fruitful discussions.
  • Excellencies, last year, we widened our cooperation in the tourism sector. To enhance greater people to people contact, our Prime Minister at the ASEAN India Commemorative Summit, declared the year 2019 as the India-ASEAN Year of Tourism. A large number of activities & events are planned to be held in the course of the year. We offer to organize a training course for chefs from the Mekong countries in Indian cuisine. We would like to invite Master Craftsmen from Mekong Countries to attend the world famous Surajkund Fair in February 2019. We would also like to organize a Photography competition in the Mekong countries to promote tourism. We will share concept papers on each of the activities to successfully implement these ideas.
  • I understand, at the MGC SOM meeting yesterday, it was agreed to launch a Visiting Guide for Mekong Ganga Buddhist pilgrimage sites at the next Buddhist Conclave to be held in New Delhi on 22nd August. I thank the Government of Myanmar for compiling this extremely useful guide that will help promote tourism in our region. Our Ministry of Tourism is also preparing a Blue Print for a Buddhist Tourism Trail. I am certain, it will build on the Guide prepared by Myanmar. I request the Mekong member countries to kindly nominate a nodal point of contact for this activity and also share information about locations from their countries, which can be incorporated in this new project.
  • Excellencies, as mentioned earlier, we hosted the first Joint Committee Meeting for cooperation in the SMEs Sector in September 2018. The meeting discussed areas for cooperation and collaboration in this sector. India has offered to provide Capacity Building Courses, for setting up SME clusters, transfer of technology in food processing sector and other proposals. There is scope for cooperation in this sector. India would be happy to work together with MGC partners to achieve its potential.
  • Last year in November 2017, when we hosted the 1st meeting of the 8th Working Group on Health for Information and Cooperation in Pandemics (malaria & dengue) Management, on the side lines of the WHO meet on Malaria, a large number of areas such as training of doctors in Malaria & Dengue treatment, collaboration in management of both diseases in border provinces, joint research in resistant malaria, sharing of data in border areas etc. were identified for cooperation in eradicating Malaria and Dengue in our countries. We look forward to the second meeting on this subject in any other Mekong country to carry forward our discussions.
  • Preservation of Rice Germplasm is yet another important area of cooperation between India and Mekong countries. Rice is a staple food for all of us. Collectively, we are today the largest exporter of rice. We propose to organize a Joint Working Group Meeting on this subject in second week of November 2018.
  • Excellencies, this year we also plan to conduct a course on Museology and Conservation Techniques at National Museum Institute, New Delhi. We have requested for nominations from the Mekong countries. This training progranmme will also be useful for tracing and conserving technical knowledge in maintaining and running the MGC Traditional Textiles Museum based in Siam Reap, Cambodia.
  • India has expanded its trade with the Mekong Countries. We understand that all MGC countries face the same developmental and growth challenges. There are enough opportunities among the MGC countries to promote trade, commerce and investment. In this regard, India will organize a MGC Buyer Seller Meet focused on trade and investment at Guwahati during the latter part of this year.
  • Excellencies, India remains committed to promote human resources of Mekong countries. Presently, we offer more than 900 scholarships in different technical and non technical subjects at different levels to students from Mekong countries. I would like to seek the support of Hon’ble Ministers for a full utilization of the scholarships.
  • It gives me great pleasure to announce that our proposal for conducting the Quick Impact Projects has been enthusiastically welcomed by the CLMV countries. As on date, 26 projects have either been completed or are in different stages of implementation in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam. We look forward to undertaking projects in Myanmar. I assure you of our continued cooperation in this regard.
  • Connectivity, both physical and digital are vital not only for trade and commerce but also for promoting people to people contact and tourism. The work on the Trilateral Highway is progressing smoothly. I invite other members to discuss the modalities for its further extension to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos PDR. To get the full benefits of connectivity, we should agree to sign a Motor Vehicle Agreement which is pending for long.
  • In conclusion, Excellencies, I propose that we work collectively to develop capacities, to strengthen our economic, political and people to people relations and identify new areas of our cooperation.

    Closing Remarks

  • I thank you Co-chair for your interest and views expressed today in taking the MGC agenda forward.
  • I would like to thank Thailand for their contribution and efforts during their tenure as the MGC Co-chair. I would like to also congratulate Viet Nam on assuming the responsibility of the Co-chair of MGC. We stand ready to contribute and assist in any way we can to take our mutually beneficially partnership forward.
August 02, 2018
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