Manila/New Delhi - India and other members of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) have decided to explore ways to boost maritime freight and land connectivity among the countries, including through extending the Trilateral Highway.
This was agreed following the Eighth MGC Ministerial Meeting held in Manila.
"The ministers reiterated the need to step up efforts towards enhancing connectivity between India and the Mekong Sub-region and agreed to establish MGC Joint Working Group to explore ways to enhance maritime cargo transportation and land connectivity amongst MGC countries, including the extension of the (Indian-Myanmar-Thailand) trilateral highway into Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and connecting East-West Economic Corridor and the Southern Coastal Economic Corridor with the Indian subcontinent," a joint statement issued following the meeting said.
"The ministers also welcomed India's proposal to host the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) -India Connectivity Summit in New Delhi later in 2017 to further give impetus to enhancing cooperation amongst MGC partners," it stated.
Established in 2000 in Vientiane, Laos, the MGC comprises six member countries through which the Ganga and Mekong rivers flow - India, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh represented India at the meeting.
According to the statement, the ministers agreed that there was tremendous potential for enhancing cooperation amongst the MGC countries in the field of tourism and appreciated the efforts being taken by Myanmar in coordinating efforts towards establishment of a "Buddhist Trail".
The ministers also encouraged national tourism organisations of MGC countries to accelerate tourism promotion through supporting each other's participation in professional travel fairs held in India and Mekong countries.
"The Ministers recalled the offer of a $1 billion concessional line of credit for enhancing connectivity that had been made by the Prime Minister of India in November 2015 and appreciated the efforts made by India in sharing details of digital connectivity projects that can be carried out in partner countries by utilising the LoC," the statement said.
The member states also appreciated India's capacity building in their respective countries.
"The ministers appreciated India's contribution towards capacity building and human resource development in the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) countries," a joint statement issued following the meeting said.
"The ministers noted with satisfaction that almost 50 percent scholarships were utilised during 2016-17 and agreed on the need for more effective utilisation of these scholarships," it said.
According to the statement, the ministers also appreciated the efforts of Nalanda University towards strengthening inter-Asian cooperation and facilitating research on the Mekong Ganga region.
"The ministers noted the updated status of the establishment of the Common Archival Resource Centre at Nalanda University and urged all partners to commence preparation of archives which can be shared for the creation of the Common Archival Resource Centre," it stated.
The ministers also welcomed the progress made in strengthening cooperation in agriculture and food security.
"The ministers welcomed the substantial progress made in the execution of the Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) and appreciated the efforts being made by the India in this regard," the statement said.