ICWA-AIC International Webinar on Twenty Years of Mekong-Ganga Cooperation
(5-6 November 2020)
Smt. Riva Das Ganguly, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs
Good Morning Director General of ICWA, Dr Raghavan
Chairman RIS, Dr Mohan Kumar
Distinguished colleagues, scholars, ladies and gentlemen;
I appreciate the initiative taken by ICWA and the ASEAN India Centre (AIC) to organize this conference to commemorate two decades of the successful existence of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation. India and the Mekong region are bound together not only by geographical contiguity but also by historical linkages and by shared cultural heritage. Our interactions over the centuries have enriched all. Twenty years ago, we decided to formalize the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Framework named after the two mighty river systems on either ends of the region. This year is the 20th anniversary of the MGC and I would like to congratulate all of you on this occasion. It is our hope that this cooperation will continue to flourish in the years to come.
2. The COVID-19 Pandemic has thrown our entire world out of gear. It is an unprecedented crisis. Even after several months of fighting the pandemic, we are uncertain about the true extent of damage this has caused in terms of loss of lives, livelihoods and to economies in the region. Platforms such as these can go a long way in making progressive policy decisions to counter the negative effects of this pandemic and to suggest the way forward.
3. India has played a key role in keeping open the global supply chains for essential medicines and deploying Medical Assistance Teams comprising doctors, nurses and paramedics during this crisis. India has provided medicine and medical supplies to the Mekong countries including Thailand, Lao PDR and Myanmar. Further, as a capacity building measure, medical officers from the Armed forces of CLMV countries participated in an e-ITEC Defence Medical Course on COVID-19 organised from 6th to 9th July, 2020. India believes that the search for effective pharmaceutical interventions for COVID 19 is a continuous and collaborative effort. In this regard, we look forward for an enhanced cooperation and collaboration between the MGC countries on vaccine and drug development.
4. I am pleased to inform you that good progress has been made under the MGC Plan of Action adopted last year. It includes host of ongoing initiatives such as MGC Quick Impact Projects; scholarships for MGC students at Indian institutions, establishment of the Centers for Excellence in Software Development and Training (CESDT) in CLMV countries etc.
5. Quick Impact Project Scheme has been one of the major mainstay of our cooperation in the area since 2015. A total of 29 projects have being completed in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) so far, with India’s assistance. The success of the scheme can be gauged from the fact that out of the 37 projects currently under implementation, 23 projects have been sanctioned in the year 2020, indicating the continued trust that the Mekong countries have shown towards the efficacy of this scheme. In the current year, a new area of cooperation namely Water Resource Management has also been added under the QIP scheme under which we will be cooperating with Vietnam on 7 projects aimed towards building infrastructure for efficient water management in its drought prone areas.
6. Another area of our cooperation in the region is capacity building and human resource development. India offers scholarship for the MGC partner countries which has seen active utilization. These include 50 annual scholarships under the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) MGC Scholarship Scheme, and close to 700 scholarships for short-duration training programmes administered bilaterally under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme.
7. Collaboration with the Mekong countries on the IT front has been one of the initial pillar of MGC partnership. In this regard, India has established Centers for Excellence in Software Development and Training (CESDT) in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar. The center in Vietnam is also close to completion. The IT training activities have also been successfully ongoing in the MGC countries with Indian experts being deputed in the CESDT centers on regular basis. In addition a MGC website is proposed to be launched this year which will be used to disseminate information about the joint cooperation activities among the MGC countries on a real time basis.
8. Development of Infrastructure and Connectivity is a vital area of cooperation between India and the Mekong countries. In this regard, India has extended Lines of Credit to the Mekong region, disbursing a total of USD 580 million for various projects which include hydro power generation, digital connectivity, rural electrification, irrigation schemes, installation of transmission lines and building of educational institutes. We are also working on the early operationalization of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and are also considering a proposal by Lao PDR for eastward extension of the IMT trilateral highway.
9. It is our firm belief that promotion of businesses and private investments in the Mekong region will go a long way in contributing to the growth of the Mekong region. Towards this end, Government of India has established Project Development Fund.
10. As initially highlighted, India and the Mekong region have a long historical and culture connect with each other. There are several archaeological sites discovered in the Mekong region which are of significant historical and cultural importance and some of them have also been recognized as UNESCO world heritage sites. India has been engaged in the restoration and preservation of numerous such heritage sites in the Mekong region which include the restoration work at the Ta-Prohm Temple and the Preah Vihar temple in Cambodia, Vat Phou in Lao PDR, My Son temple in Vietnam and Ananda Temple in Myanmar. India has also established a MGC Asian Traditional Textile Museum in Siam Reap, Cambodia with the aim of preserving and showcasing the rich and vibrant textile heritage of the Mekong-Ganga region.
11. This year marks a significant milestone on the journey of cooperation between India and the Mekong countries. We plan to organize a host of celebratory activities to commemorate this milestone over the course of next year. In this regard, several events were planned to mark the 20th Anniversary Celebrations of MGC. All these celebratory events were put on hold due to the COVID 19 pandemic, but as and when the situation improves we will be working together towards their timely implementation.
12. I would conclude by thanking everyone for their invaluable contributions for the successful organization of this conference. I am confident that our shared commitment will take our cooperation to ever greater heights.