11th MGC Ministerial meeting
1. The 11th Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Ministerial Meeting (11th MGC MM) was held on 21st July, 2021, via video conferencing. The Meeting was preceded by the 12th MGC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) held on 3rd September 2020.
2. The Meeting was co-chaired by H.E. PRAK Sokhonn, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia and H.E. Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India, and attended by H.E Bui Thanh Son, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam; H.E. Mr. Saleumxay Kommasith, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR; H.E. Mr. Ko Ko Hlaing, Union Minister for International Cooperation of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar; and H.E. Mr.Vijavat Isarabhakdi, Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand.
3. The Ministers noted the report of the 12th MGC SOM and welcomed the progress made in cooperation in prioritised sectors under the MGC Plan of Action 2019-2022. The MGC Plan of Action (2019-22) was adopted at the last MGC ministerial meeting that envisaged project-based cooperation in the seven areas of MGC cooperation, namely tourism and culture, education, public health and traditional medicine, agriculture and allied sectors, transport and communication, MSMEs as well as three new areas of cooperation i.e. water resources management, science and technology, skill development and capacity building.
20th Anniversary of the MGC
4. The Ministers hailed the 20th anniversary of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation process that has created a strong and vibrant cooperation framework between the six member countries. The MGC process has been deepened over the years and expanded to new areas. These efforts have aided the overall socio-economic development of the region, improved the lives and livelihoods of people and strengthen the bonds of friendship between them.
5. Given that the year 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of MGC, the Ministers reviewed progress in cooperation in the prioritised sectors of MGC and noted with satisfaction that the MGC Plan of Action 2019-2022 has provided a good roadmap to further strengthen the cooperation. The Ministers expressed their hope of holding the celebratory events in 2021 once the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic improves. The pandemic has delayed the 20th Anniversary celebrations of MGC which were earlier scheduled to take place on 20th-21st April, 2020 at MGC- Asian Traditional Textile Museum (ATTM), Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia.
6. The Ministers welcomed India’s assistance to Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam under the MGC Quick Impact Projects (QIP) Scheme and noted that since its inception in 2015-16, 38 projects have been completed so far at a cost of USD 1.9 million and 30 projects are under implementation. They further appreciated the Memorandum of Understanding on the implementation of QIPs between Myanmar and India, which was signed on 27th February, 2020 during the visit of Myanmar’s President to India and were hopeful of a progressive and fruitful collaboration between India and Myanmar in the future. The Ministers also welcomed the extension of the existing QIP Framework Agreements between India, Cambodia and Lao PDR which expired in September, 2020, for another 5 years till September 2025.
7. The Ministers highlighted the importance of sustainable water resources management as a new area of cooperation, encompassing water governance, enhancing technical cooperation in sustainable water management and exchanges of experience, knowledge, information and best practices in integrated water resources management and encouraging human resources development and capacity building. In this regard, they highlighted India's assistance in providing 7 projects to Vietnam for water resource management in drought affected Mekong Delta Region and also urged officials to identify more such projects in other MGC countries.
8. The Ministers appreciated the Lines of Credit (LoC) extended by India over the years to the region. Under the bilateral track, India has been extending several Lines of Credit to CLMV countries worth about US$ 1.5 billion since 2003. Those include: 4 LoCs involving 7 projects to Cambodia, aggregating to US$ 102.12 million; 10 LoCs involving 25 projects to Myanmar, aggregating to US $ 475.57 million; 5 LoCs involving 23 projects aggregating to US $ 692 million to Vietnam; 5 LoCs involving 9 projects aggregating to US $ 226.23 million to Lao PDR. There is a total of USD 580 million which has been disbursed to the CLMV countries for various projects undertaken under the LoCs including water resource development, connectivity, infrastructure development, defence procurement, digital connectivity, rural electrification, irrigation schemes, installation of transmission lines and building of educational institutes in the CLMV Countries.
Trade and Investment
9. The Ministers further appreciated the steady increase in trade volume between India and the MGC countries which expanded substantially from USD 1 Billion in 2000 to around USD 25 Billion in 2020, a nearly 25 fold increase in 2 decades. At the same time, they acknowledged the unprecedented impact that COVID-19 pandemic had on trade and investments in MGC countries. The Ministers agreed to take collective actions to ensure the continuity of our trade and investment flows while strengthening supply chain connectivity and resilience in order to overcome the social and economic challenges posed by the pandemic. To strengthen the post-pandemic recovery efforts through joint collaboration, the Ministers noted the need for ensuring that markets remain open for trade and investment across borders. In addition, due to the travel restriction caused by COVID-19, they instructed the officials to explore means to encourage businesses to maintain the momentum of economic engagement through novel means such as organizing a virtual business-to-business meeting of Chambers of Commerce of MGC countries.
10. The Ministers noted India’s initiative of setting up of Special Purpose Vehicles in the MGC countries for attracting private investments from India to boost their local economies under which one project each in Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia have been identified under the Project Development Fund for CLMV countries for collaboration with the Indian private sector. The Detailed Projects reports along with the Letter of Intents have been shared with the respective governments for their comments and suggesting future course of action. The Ministers provided guidelines for officials to expedite work on the proposals shared by India in consultation with the concerned CLMV country.
11. The Ministers reiterated their commitment to enhancing trade cooperation by promoting trade facilitation measures as well as eliminating unnecessary trade barriers. India expressed its interest in organizing a virtual MGC conference along with a Business Forum focusing on MSMEs to provide an interactive platform for the MGC countries and chart the post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan to ensure MSMEs’ increased participation into the regional and global supply chains.
12. While embracing the effort in developing hard infrastructure connectivity, Ministers also recognized the importance of building soft infrastructure connectivity in the region, focusing on grasping the opportunities brought about by digital transformation, promoting ICT-driven projects such as e-Commerce, e-Government, and digital trade, addressing the digital gap among the MGC member countries, nurturing digital manpower and stimulating innovation as the new driving force for economic development and competitiveness of Mekong-Ganga region.
13. The Ministers underscored the importance of connectivity among MGC countries and expressed support for cooperation projects to develop sustainable and resilient infrastructure for inclusive growth in MGC countries. Furthermore, the Ministers looked forward to the early completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and directed their officials to work towards the early finalization of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Vehicle Agreement (IMT MVA).
14. The Ministers also recognized the importance of synergizing the MGC with the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 and connectivity initiatives of other sub-regional and inter-regional frameworks in line with the “Connecting the Connectivities” approach, including through, inter alia, the extension of the Trilateral Highway to Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The Ministers welcomed the report published by the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) on the India-Myanmar-Thailand ‘Trilateral Highway and Its Possible Eastward Extension to Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam: Challenges and Opportunities’ in June 2020, which identifies two possible routes for eastward extension of the Trilateral Highway and gives specific recommendations for policy coordination and project implementation. They hoped that this project would help to strengthen East-West connectivity bringing related benefits to the people of the region.
15. The Ministers welcomed the progress made on the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP) which connects by waterway 158 km from Sittwe to Paletwa in Myanmar on Kaladan River, while the road component of 109 km would connect Paletwa to Zorinpui on the India-Myanmar border in Mizoram state. The waterway component was concluded in May, 2017 and India and Myanmar are working to operationalize the port at the earliest possible time. The road component of the project is under implementation. The Ministers also welcomed the launch of four new direct flight routes connecting big cities between India and Viet Nam in 2019, and looked forward to resuming these flight when the COVID-19 situation is under control.
16. Welcoming India’s announcement of a USD 1 billion Line of Credit (LoC) for physical and digital connectivity projects in ASEAN to support the implementation of MPAC 2025, the Ministers encouraged officials to identify connectivity projects including cross border urban development and discuss modalities for utilization of the LoC. In this context, they welcomed India's offer to facilitate discussions on the flexible terms and conditions for drawing on this credit line and identifying projects which are of interest to the MGC countries.
17. The Ministers looked forward to India’s active participation as a Development Partner in the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and directed Senior Officials to identify specific projects for a joint implementation, focusing particularly on projects that can also complement joint projects having already been undertaken by India with the Mekong countries both under bilateral and other multilateral frameworks such as the MGC, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations.
Education, skill development and Capacity Building
18. The Ministers appreciated the contribution of the Mekong countries in exchanging experiences and good practices in common areas of interest to enhance human resource development in the region and India’s contribution towards capacity building and human resource development in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam. Currently, 50 scholarships are being offered per year to students from the MGC countries under the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) program and close to 700 scholarships for short term programs offered under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program. The Ministers noted with satisfaction the fact that all the scholarship schemes offered by India for the Mekong countries have seen active utilization, including annual scholarships and training programmes. The Ministers also welcomed Thailand’s provision of annual capacity building programmes through short-term training fellowships under the Annual International Training Courses (AITC) and postgraduate scholarships under the Thai International Postgraduate Programme (TIPP) organised by Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA).
19. The Ministers appreciated India's efforts towards development of the MGC website, which would contribute to branding of the regional grouping and would have useful information on various joint programmes and activities. They agreed on making contributions to the website in the future by uploading new content and latest updates pertaining to development works in their area.
20. The Ministers noted the new area of cooperation on science and technology and also recognized the importance of science and technology which is the key to increase economic growth, develop human resource, alleviate societal challenge while tackling environmental challenge. Under the scope of ASEAN-India Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation, ASEAN-India S&T working Group (AIWGST) was established and many projects and scientific activities have been implemented under ASEAN-India S&T program through ASEAN-India S&T Development Fund (AISTDF).
21. The Ministers also appreciated India’s assistance in setting up Centres for Excellence in Software Development and Training (CESDT) in the Mekong countries. The Ministers welcomed the operationalization of the Centres in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar and looked forward to early operationalization of the Centre in Vietnam. They also appreciated the training programme provided by India to teachers and students from Mekong countries as part of the project. Apart from the CESDT, India has also made provisions for the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centres including a USD 2 million Advanced Resource Centre in Information and Communications Technology (ARC-ICT) which was established in Hanoi in 2012 and a India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of IT Skill (IMCEITS) which was set up in 2008.
22. The Ministers again appreciated the continuous efforts by India in its various capacity building initiatives like the Entrepreneurship Development Centres and English Language Training centres across the CLMV countries and in the areas of science, technology, innovation and ICT. Under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plans towards narrowing the development gap within the region, India had set up Entrepreneurship Development Centres in Vietnam, Cambodia as well as Lao PDR for providing technical assistance for entrepreneurship development. Similarly, English language training centres have been set up by India in Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR. India also helped Myanmar government in setting up of Language Laboratories at Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw in 2014.
23. Recognizing the challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to all the countries, the Ministers agreed on conducting virtual seminars aimed towards expediting post pandemic social and economic recovery process as well as for promoting exchange of ideas on how to improve public health and promote health security in post COVID era, particularly on medical research, development, production and distribution of medicine and vaccine.
24. The Ministers appreciated the mutual support between MGC countries in the fight against COVID-19. In this regard, the Ministers welcomed India’s COVID-19 related assistance to the Mekong countries including supply of medicines like hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), Paracetamol & Gentamicin injections and medical supplies including infusion pumps, thermal scanners, defibrillators, syringes, saline infusion etc., as well as organization of capacity building of e-ITEC Defence Medical Course on COVID-19 for Medical officers from the Armed forces of CLMV countries. The Ministers also welcomed the effort made by Mekong countries in providing COVID-19 related assistance and cooperation to India and Mekong countries, including Thailand’s initiative under Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) the “Project on sharing experiences and knowledge transfer through cross-border medical networking system” which contributes to enhancing knowledge and capacity of public health personnel on case management, prevention and control of disease, and creating a prompt medical networking system for real-time consultation.
25. The Ministers also agreed that the search for effective pharmaceutical interventions for COVID-19 is a continuous and collaborative effort. In this regard, the Ministers look forward to enhance cooperation and collaboration among MGC countries on scientific research, development, production and distribution of anti-viral medicines and vaccines in an affordable and timely manner. The Ministers also welcomed India’s contribution of USD 1 million to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund announced at the 17th ASEAN-India Summit in November 2020.
26. The Ministers emphasized the importance of cooperation in the field of health, and acknowledged the richness of MGC countries’ traditional medicinal practices. They appreciated India’s efforts in organizing a workshop on the Traditional and Complementary Medicine in New Delhi, from 23-24 October 2019 where 25 participants from the 5 Mekong countries participated. They also encouraged the senior officials from the Mekong countries to consider the proposals sent by India for deputing Ayurveda experts in their respective countries for enhancing cooperation in the field of traditional medicines.
Tourism and Cultural Cooperation
27. The Ministers commended the past and on-going outcomes of the Mekong-Ganga tourism cooperation through ASEAN-India framework. The Ministers further encouraged more intra Mekong-Ganga tourism cooperation through promoting eco-tourism, agri-tourism, sport-tourism, cultural and heritage tourism, gastronomy and community-based tourism (CBT), air connectivity, travel facilitation by reducing unnecessary barriers (formalities) as well as develop tourism historical route corridors connectivity to promote ancient capitals and heritage sites.
28. The Ministers welcomed the initiative on substantiating a Memorandum of Understanding on Mekong-Ganga tourism cooperation to further promote tourism exchanges in response to COVID-19.
29. The Ministers acknowledged the negative impact that COVID-19 pandemic had on the tourism cooperation amongst the Mekong countries. Emphasizing the deep cultural linkages between the MGC countries, the Ministers encouraged efforts to develop tour packages for thematic circuits and Buddhist Trails with multiple destinations in two or more MGC countries so that once the pandemic is over, more events can be planned under the Tourism sector cooperation. They noted with satisfaction the celebration of ASEAN-India Tourism Cooperation Year 2019 and the various activities undertaken in 2019 to promote tourism between India and MGC countries.
30. The Ministers expressed deep appreciation for India’s efforts towards the restoration and preservation of cultural heritage in the region. The Phase I (1986-1993) of the long-standing preservation efforts was undertaken at the Angkor Wat temple through the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), while Phase II (2002-2015) consisted of conservation and restoration efforts of four restoration sites at Ta Prohm Temple, which was successfully completed at an estimated cost of USD 4.5 million. To date, Phase III (2016-2025) of the restoration project has been implemented and is scheduled to be completed in 2025. The Ministers further appreciated India’s continuing efforts for the Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia, in particular, restoration of Gopura V and the conservation and restoration work at UNESCO world Heritage site of Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape in Lao PDR which completed the Phase-I in 2017 at a cost of US$ 1.95 million. Another work has started at the My Son Sanctuary in Quang Nam Province of Vietnam involving the restoration of three groups of temples with a total estimated cost of over US$ 2 million. India has also undertaken some key initiatives in the restoration of the Ananda Buddhist Temple, Bagan, Myanmar and is also working on the conservation of earthquake-damaged pagodas in Bagan. India completed the work on restoration and renovation of two historic temples in Bodh Gaya built by Myanmar rulers King Mindon and King Baygyidaw.
31. The Ministers appreciated India’s assistance to the tune of USD 2 million towards the setting and functioning of the MGC Asian Traditional Textiles Museum (ATTM) in Siem Reap, Cambodia to preserve and showcase the rich and vibrant textile heritage of the Mekong-Ganga region. They further encouraged relevant agencies to explore possibilities to make the Museum financially self-sustainable in the medium to long term, with a view to promote cultural exchanges between India and the Mekong Region.
32. The Ministers also acknowledged with appreciation the cooperation between the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNA) and the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA National Authority, ANA) in areas of mutual interest, particularly research and training in the study of living art and cultural traditions of Angkor, and heritage management among others, of which an MoU was signed in 2017.
33. The Ministers reviewed the progress in the establishment of Common Archival Resource Centre (CARC) at Nalanda University envisaged with the aim to focus on academic research on India-Southeast Asia historical and civilizational linkages They urged further collaboration and cooperation among line agencies in MGC countries in enlisting support from national libraries, archives, museums and universities including incorporating relevant digitization projects already underway to build a digital platform for CARC.
34. The Ministers highlighted the importance of developing cooperation in fields of culture and people-to-people contacts. India is currently offering 10 scholarships per year for courses in Museology and Conservation Techniques at National Museum Institute for participants from the MGC countries. India offered to host artisans and cultural troupes from the Mekong countries to participate in prominent cultural fairs and festivals in India once the situation allows holding of such activities.
35. The Ministers agreed to hold the 12th MGC Ministerial Meeting on the margins of ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in 2022. The date and venue will be communicated through diplomatic channels in due course.?