On the ‘Buddha Trail’: Expanding Mekong Region ties with India

10:34 | 05/09/2017 Cooperation

(VEN) - To promote cooperation between countries in the Mekong Region and India, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh emphasized the need to increase transport connectivity and facilitate trade, especially customs procedures. 

on the buddha trail expanding mekong region ties with india

Vietnam’s proposals

Minh spoke at the eighth Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) Ministerial Meeting that took place this month in Manila, within the framework of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM 50). Attendants included foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and India.

Apart from transport, Vietnam also proposed increased cooperation in environmental protection and climate change adaptation, as well as in management and sustainable use of water resources of the Mekong and Ganga rivers. Regional countries supported Vietnam’s proposals and agreed to establish a working group to explore ways to boost maritime freight, as well as and land and air connectivity, among the MGC countries. The working group will also accelerate the establishment of a “Buddha Trail” through the MGC countries to promote tourism cooperation.

First MGC business forum

At the meeting, foreign ministers of MGC countries reviewed the implementation of the MGC Action Plan for the 2016-2018 period and discussed measures to increase future cooperation. They hailed results of the forum’s activities. Those mentioned were the opening of the MGC Asian Traditional Textiles Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia in April 2014; the MGC scholarship program that offers more than 900 scholarships for students from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam annually; and the establishment of a Common Archival Resource Center at Nalanda University, India.

The ministers also commended the MGC Quick Impact Projects Fund for funding 26 projects of countries in the Mekong Region. To expand cooperation between regional countries and India, they agreed to accelerate the implementation of specific projects in priority areas, including agriculture, tourism, culture and transport. A joint working group for conservation of rice varieties will be established as soon as possible.

The ministers proposed the expansion of cooperation into new areas, including developing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), organizing a global MSME summit, increasing cooperation among MGC businesses, organizing the annual MGC business forum with the first event of its kind to take place in India next January, and promoting healthcare cooperation, especially in malaria prevention. Wrapping up their meeting, the ministers agreed to gather for the ninth MGC Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore next year.

Established on November 10, 2000 in Vientiane, Laos, MGC consists of six members, including India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. Their cooperation focuses on tourism, culture, education and transportation to lay the firm foundation for expanding regional trade and investment. The working mechanism of the MGC consists of the Annual Ministerial Meeting that coincides with the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, a Senior Officials’ Meeting, and five Working Groups on tourism, education, culture, communications and transportation, and action planning.

Nhat Quang