11th MGC Ministerial meeting

1.    The 11th Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Ministerial Meeting (11th MGC MM) was held on September 2020 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. Dr. Sok Siphana, Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia and H.E. Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India, and attended by H.E Pham Binh Minh, Deputy Prime Minister, 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. Kyaw Tin, Union Minister for International Cooperation of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar; and H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister 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 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.

 

4.    The Ministers acknowledged the delay in organizing the event marking the 20th Anniversary celebrations of MGC which was earlier scheduled to take place on 20th-21st April, 2020 in MGC-ATTM, Siem Reap, Cambodia and got postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They appreciated the efforts that went into in planning the activities for the anniversary celebrations of MGC including holding an exhibition showcasing the various heritage conservation works undergoing in the MGC countries, displaying a video documentary highlighting the cultural and historical linkages between India and the Mekong countries and organising a cultural evening with participation from different dance troupes from the MGC countries. The ministers were hopeful of holding the celebratory events in the first half of 2021 once the situation improves post the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

5.    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, 28 projects have been completed so far. In 2020, 20 new QIPs have been sanctioned to Cambodia and Viet Nam at a cost of USD 1 million. They appreciated the MoU which was recently signed between Myanmar and India 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.

 

6.    The Ministers highlighted the importance of water resources management as a new area of cooperation, encompassing namely: sustainable water management, water harvesting, water data collection, climate change adaptation and mitigation, integrated water resources management, groundwater management, transboundary basin management, water quality monitoring, flood and drought management and disaster reduction etc. In this regard, they appreciated India's assistance in sanctioning 7 projects to Vietnam for water resource management in drought-affected areas and also urged officials to identify more such projects.

 

7.    The Ministers welcomed India’s joining the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) as a Development Partner and directed Senior Officials to identify specific projects for joint implementation, focusing particularly on projects that can also complement joint projects already being undertaken by India with the ACMECS 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.

 

8.    The Ministers appreciated the ongoing cooperation in the education sector 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 MGC countries under the ICCR program and close to 700 scholarships for short duration programs are being 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.

 

9.    The Ministers appreciated the progress made by India in development of the MGC website, which would contribute to branding of the regional grouping and will have useful information on the various joint programmes and activities.

 

10. 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 finalisation of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Vehicle Agreement (IMT MVA).

 

11. The Ministers also recognized the importance of synergizing the MGC with the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity 2025 (MPAC 2025) and connectivity initiatives of other sub-regional and inter-regional frameworks through, inter alia, the extension of the Trilateral Highway to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam. The Ministers noted the report published by the Jakarta-based Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) on ‘Trilateral Highway and Possible Extension to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam: Current Status, Challenges, Opportunities’ in June 2020, which identifies two possible routes for eastward extension of the Trilateral Highway: the northern route from Meiktila in Myanmar to Ha Noi and Hai Phong in Viet Nam via the Myanmar–Lao PDR Friendship Bridge and the southern route from Mae Sot to Aranyaprathet via Bangkok in Thailand to Phnom Penh/Sihanoukville – Bavet in Cambodia and Moc Bai ? Ho Chi Minh City ? Vung Tau in Viet Nam, and gives specific recommendations for policy coordination and project implementation.

 

12. Welcoming India’s announcement of a USD 1 billion Line of Credit (LOC) for physical and digital connectivity projects in ASEAN, the Ministers directed officials to identify connectivity projects and discuss modalities for utilisation of this LOC.

 

13. The Ministers from Mekong countries appreciated India’s pledge of Indian Rupees 5 billion under a Project Development Fund to facilitate Indian investments in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam. The Ministers directed officials from India, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam to discuss specific projects of mutual interest that can be realised for utilising these funds.

 

14. The Ministers appreciated assistance from India’s Centre for Development of Advance Computing (C-DAC) in setting up of Centres for Excellence in Software Development and Training (CESDT) in Mekong countries. The Ministers welcomed the operationalization of these Centres in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. The Ministers also appreciated the training provided by C-DAC to teachers and students from Mekong countries as part of the project.

 

15. The Ministers appreciated India’s assistance towards the setting up 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 encouraged the relevant agencies to explore possibilities to make the Museum financially self-sustainable in the medium to long term, including promoting the Museum as a tourist attraction and also to convert it to a Museum cum-Culture Centre that can promote cultural exchanges between India and the Mekong Region.

 

16. The Ministers reviewed the progress in the establishment of a Common Archival Resource Centre (CARC) at Nalanda University. They urged further collaboration and cooperation among line agencies in MGC countries with the CARC to build it as a centre for academic research on India-Southeast Asia historical and civilisational linkages.

 

17. The Ministers acknowledged the impact that Covid-19 pandemic had on the tourism cooperation amongst the Mekong 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 Tourism cooperation.

 

18. The Ministers highlighted the importance of developing cooperation in fields of culture and people-to-people contacts. India offered to host artisans and cultural troupes from Mekong countries to participate in prominent cultural fairs and festivals in India. India is also currently offering 10 scholarships per year for courses in Museology and Conservation Techniques at National Museum Institute for participants from the MGC countries.

 

19. The Ministers reiterated their commitment to enhance trade cooperation. In this regard an MGC Business Forum focusing on MSMEs is planned on the side-lines of ASEAN-India Business Expo and Summit to be organized by Viet Nam in November, 2020.

 

20. The Ministers underscored the importance of cooperation in the field of agriculture and fisheries. They welcomed India's offer to organise workshops on preservation of rice germplasm and productivity enhancement through mechanization, and on sustainable practices in fisheries and dairy sectors.

 

21. 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 organising 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 directed the senior officials from the Mekong countries to expedite the approvals regarding the proposals sent by India for deputing Ayurveda experts in their respective countries for enhancing cooperation’s in the field of medicinal plants traditional medicines

 

22. The Ministers agreed to hold the 12th MGC Ministerial Meeting on the margins of ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in 2021. The date and venue will be communicated through diplomatic channels in due course.