Vientiane (Laos), July 25 : The Seventh Mekong Ganga Cooperation Ministerial Meeting (7th MGC MM) held in Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), has adopted a plan of action to implement the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation for the next three years (2016-2018).
The meeting appreciated India's contribution to capacity building and human resource development in the CLMV countries - Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam, including over 900 annual scholarships under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.
The participating ministers agreed on the need for effective utilisation of these scholarships, including those granted to study at Nalanda University.
They welcomed the suggestion of 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 for providing them long term sustainability.
Chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR Saleumxay Kommasith and attended by Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (Dr.) V.K.
Singh; Cambodia Senior Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Prak Sokhonn; Myanmar State Counsellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs Daw.
Aung San Suu Kyi; Thailand Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai; and Viet Nam Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, the meeting was preceded by the Senior Officials Meeting on July 23.
The ministers endorsed the SOM Report and emphasised that collaboration under MGC must be given a sense of urgency since it actively supports the initiative for 'ASEAN 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.
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.
They appreciated the short documentary film on the museum commissioned by India. Recognising the significance of ensuring food security for the citizens of the MGC countries, the ministers 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 among others, in research and development on production of quality seeds, short duration and stress-tolerant varieties.
The ministers welcomed the concept note on project of rice production and downstream processing circulated by India after the sixth MGC MM and tasked the SOM to identify a list of potential cooperation activities.
They agreed to strengthen cooperation in agriculture and food security with the aims to assist member countries in joining global, regional food supply chains, developing high-tech and climate-smart agriculture and ensuring food safety.
The meeting recalled that the sixth MGC Ministerial Meeting had recognised the wealth of natural resources and expertise available in the MGC sub-region, and the complementarity among small and medium enterprises (SME) in the MGC countries in terms of product, technology, human resources and market.
They concurred with the concept note circulated by India after the sixth MGC MM and instructed SOM to consider the establishment of MGC Joint Working Group of the Cooperation in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to review and monitor cooperation in the SME sector, including the participation of the private sector, wherever applicable, and promote exchange of best practices.
Participating ministers had recognised at the sixth MGC Ministerial Meeting the need for sharing information and cooperation in Pandemics Management through the threat of drug resistance in malaria.
The ministers tasked SOM to examine the concept note circulated by India and consider convening an expert meeting to discuss the threat of drug resistant malaria.
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), of those five projects each in Cambodia and Viet Nam are already under implementation.
They committed to kick start project work in 2016-2017. The ministers 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 Viet Nam.
In this regard, they agreed to step up efforts towards enhancing connectivity between India and the Mekong sub-region.
Recognising the significance of maritime connectivity between the MGC countries, the ministers instructed SOM to consider the establishment of an MGC Joint Working Group to explore ways to enhance maritime cargo transportation and related issues amongst MGC countries.
Taking note of the tremendous potential for collaboration in the preservation of world heritage sites in MGC countries - given their civilisational heritage and the expertise in this area, the ministers recalled Thailand's offer made at the sixth MGC Ministerial Meeting to work with India in this important area and tasked the Senior Officials to take follow-up action.
The ministers 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.
An early harvest 'Buddhist Trail' tour should be explored as a starting point and in this regard, the ministers took note of Myanmar's offer to serve as the coordinator on the initiative and instructed SOM to designate point of contact for tourism cooperation.
The ministers took note of progress made towards the revival of Nalanda University, and commended it being inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 15.
To preserve the rich heritage of intra-Asian interactions, the ministers welcomed India's proposal on the establishment of a Common Archival Resource Centre at Nalanda University to facilitate research on the Mekong Ganga deltaic region.
The ministers tasked SOM to review and update the Vientiane Declaration, the Hanoi Plan of Action and the Phnom Penh Roadmap to better reflect the new regional context and respond to the development needs of member countries.
The ministers agreed to hold the 8th MGC Ministerial Meeting on the margins of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in the Philippines in 2017 which is to be chaired by the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
The date and venue will be communicated via diplomatic channels in due course..