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Remarks by External Affairs Minister at the 10th Mekong Ganga Cooperation Ministerial Meeting

August 02, 2019

Your Excellency, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Viet Nam;
Excellencies, Distinguished Ministers and Delegates from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand;


Let me begin by thanking the Kingdom of Thailand for the warm hospitality and the excellent arrangements made for this Meeting.

I also thank our Co-Chair, the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, for coordinating this Ministerial Meeting.

Excellencies,

since its inception in the year 2000, Mekong Ganga Cooperation has come a long way. This oldest sub-regional cooperation organization turns 20 next year. The MGC is as much a celebration of our long and rich history of trade, cultural and people-to-people exchanges as it is a vehicle to advance modern day cooperation to bring progress and prosperity to our peoples. We warmly welcome Viet Nam's suggestion that the 20th anniversary of MGC should be commemorated in a befitting manner with a series of meaningful celebratory events.

I am happy to see good progress in a host of ongoing initiatives such as the MGC Quick Impact Projects; scholarships for MGC students at Indian institutions; establishment of Centres for Excellence in Software Development and Training (CESDT) in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam and so on. But I am sure Excellencies would agree that there is much more we can do.

Excellencies,

The MGC Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) are moving at a steady pace. A total of 24 projects have been completed so far, including 15 in Cambodia and 9 in Viet Nam. In addition, currently one project in Cambodia and 3 projects in Lao PDR are under implementation. I am pleased to inform that we have signed MOUs for 18 additional projects in Cambodia and a further 5 projects with Vietnam are under consideration. In Myanmar, though we do not have any QIPs at the moment, we are implementing several community development projects bilaterally under the Rakhine State Development Programme (RSDP) and our Border Area Development Programme.

All the scholarship schemes offered by India for MGC member countries have seen active utilization. We are increasing the number of scholarships for Master's Programme at Nalanda University from 6 to 20.

The setting up of CESDTs in CLMV countries by Centre for Development of Advance Computing (C-DAC) is also making good progress. We have already established these Centres in Cambodia and Lao PDR and will be deputing IT trainers to these centres soon. We have also requested Myanmar and Vietnam to expedite necessary approvals to facilitate early operationalization of the CESDTs in Myanmar and Vietnam.

We are working on early operationalization of the Common Archival Resource Centre (CARC) at Nalanda University. To this end, Excellencies, we seek your help in sourcing copies of historical documents and replicas of art works and artefacts for the CARC. These artworks and artefacts will be made digitally available by the CARC to scholars from around the world interested in academic research on India-Southeast Asia historical and civilisational linkages.

RIS, New Delhi is working with Vietnam Academy of Social Scineces (VASS), Hanoi to host the third international conference on ASEAN-India Cultural and Civilisational Linkages in Hanoi in October 2019. My colleague, H.E. V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs will represent India at the conference. Your Excellency Deputy Prime Minister, I hope you can grace the event and jointly inaugurate the conference with our Minister.

Nalanda University is actively working with the ASEAN University Network (AUN), Bangkok and universities both in India and ASEAN Member States towards creating an ASEAN-India University Network (AIUN). I am happy to note that a collaborative project involving Mandalay Technological University (MTU), Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee will be moved forward as a pilot project. It is particularly relevant that this project is beginning from among our MGC Partners.

The MGC Textiles Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia is doing significant work to preserve and showcase the rich and vibrant textile heritage of the Mekong-Ganga region. We are working with Cambodia to make the Museum financially self-sustaining, including by promoting the Museum as a tourist attraction. We seek artefacts and exhibits from all MGC countries to enhance the displays, and your help in making the Museum a hotspot by hosting academic and cultural events at this venue.

Excellency Co-Chair, following a suggestion at the last MGC SOM in New Delhi, we have commenced work on developing an MGC website to disseminate information about joint cooperation activities, as also important trade and travel fairs and cultural events. We should look at launching it before January 2020.

We plan to organize a regional conference on traditional and complementary medicine in November this year, where we will be inviting health regulators and traditional medicine practitioners. There would also be an exhibition on the sidelines.

The first MGC Business Forum, held in New Delhi in January 2018, was very well-attended. We should plan to hold this event perhaps biennially, and orgnise the second edition in Vietnam to coincide with a large trade event.

Connectivity is a major focus area of our cooperation. We look forward to the early completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and its extension to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam. The Jakarta-based Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) had been tasked to study the feasibility of developing the planned highway as a vibrant economic growth corridor. We look forward to the full report, expected to be completed early next year. We need to quickly finalise the India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Vehicle Agreement to facilitate seamless movement of goods and passengers across borders, thus leading to greater trade and tourism at the next meeting in October this year.

Excellencies, India had announced a USD 1 billion Line of Credit (LOC) for connectivity projects in ASEAN. To identify bankable projects, we have offered to facilitate discussions on the terms, conditions and modalities for drawing on this credit line, including by sending specialists from our Exim Bank to interested countries for discussions.

We must work to enhance direct air connectivity as it would make travel easier for our peoples for business and tourism. I am happy to inform that IndiGo is going to start direct flights on the New Delhi-Ho Chi Minh City sector from October this year and daily services from Kolkota to Yangon from late September. We have also notified IndiGo and Vistara as designated Indian carriers under the India-Cambodia bilateral Air Services Agreement. We encourage them to start direct flights based on the airlines' commercial considerations.

We are pleased to accept Thailand’s invitation for India to join the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) Initiative as a Development Partner. I am told our Senior Officials have had preliminary discussions on the ACMECS Master Plan 2019-2023.

Thank you, Mr. Co-Chair and Excellencies.

Bangkok
August 01, 2019

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