Call to speed up Mekong-Ganga Cooperation initiative

New Delhi:The countries under the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) have called for imparting urgency to the initiative for the sake of integration and connectivity in the south-east Asian region. "The ministers endorsed the SOM (Senior Officials Meeting) report and emphasised that collaboration under MGC must be given a sense of urgency since it actively supports the initiative for ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) integration, and the master plan on ASEAN connectivity, that helps the narrowing of the development gap, and contributes towards the implementation of the Asean Community Vision 2025," a joint statement issued at the end of the Seventh Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Ministerial Meeting held in Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic, on Sunday, said. The meeting was preceded by the Senior Officials Meeting on Saturday. "The ministers appreciated India’s contribution to capacity building and human resource development in the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) countries, including over 900 annual scholarships under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme," the statement said.  "The ministers agreed on the need for effective utilisation of these scholarships including those granted to study at Nalanda University (in India)."  The meeting was attended by V.K. Singh, India's Minister of State for External Affairs, Prak Sokhonn, Senior Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, and Pham Binh Minh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam. According to the statement, the ministers welcomed the suggestion by India that scholarships be utilised to train faculty members for the Centres for English Languages Training (CELTs), Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDCs) and the Vocational Training Centres (VTCs) established by India to provide them long term sustainability. It said the ministers welcomed the completion of construction by India of the MGC Textiles Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia, thanked all partner countries on its operationalisation and decided to jointly collaborate on the promotion of the museum as a popular tourist attraction through effective ways.  "The ministers appreciated the short documentary film on the museum commissioned by India," it said. It stated that the ministers recognised the significance of ensuring food security for the citizens of the MGC countries.  "They acknowledged that despite rice being the most important crop in MGC countries, rice production continues to face many challenges and also the need to cooperate with others, in research and development on the production of quality seeds, short duration, and stress-tolerant varieties," the statement said.  "The ministers welcomed the concept note on a project of rice production and downstream processing circulated by India after the 6th MGC MM and asked the SOM to identify a list of potential cooperation activities."  The participating countries also concurred with the concept note circulated by India after the 6th MGC Ministerial Meeting and instructed the Senior Officials Meeting to consider the establishment of an MGC joint working group on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) to review and monitor cooperation in the SME sector, including the participation of the private sector, wherever applicable, and promote exchange of best practices.  "The ministers noted that the guidelines for the utilisation of the India-CLMV Quick Impact Projects Fund were circulated by India and that 20 projects have been identified for the fund (five for Vietnam, 10 for Cambodia, three for Lao PDR and two for Myanmar)," the statement said. "Five projects in Cambodia and five in Vietnam are already under implementation. The ministers committed to kicking start project work in 2016-2017." The statement also said that the countries welcomed the consultation between ASEAN Connectivity Coordination Committee and India and agreed to discuss the extension of the Trilateral Highway through Cambodia, Lao PDR and the new highway to Vietnam.  "In this regard, the ministers agreed to step up efforts towards enhancing connectivity between India and the Mekong sub-region," it said. The ministers also agreed to enhance tourism cooperation among MGC countries through jointly conducting tourism marketing and promotional activities, exploring tourist destination for outbound tour operators and media of MGC countries and developing Mekong tours for Indian tourists.