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Mekong-Ganga Cooperation in place

Mekong-Ganga Cooperation in place

By Amit Baruah
>From The Hindu Newspaper, dated November 11, 2000

VIENTIANE (LAOS), NOV. 10. The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) got off
the ground today with six Ministers from India, Myanmar, Thailand,
Cambodia, Laos and Thailand launching the grouping by issuing the
``Vientiane Declaration'' on the framework for cooperation.

 Though in a fledgling state, the Mekong-Ganga ``six'' reflects a
departure in Indian foreign policy as New Delhi seeks to give effect to
what the former Prime Minister, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao, called the
``look East'' policy. The Vientiane Declaration said it had been
``inspired by a common desire to develop closer relations and better
understanding among the six countries to enhance friendship, solidarity
and cooperation.''

 In the tourism field, the MGC decided to conduct strategic studies for
joint marketing, launch the Mekong-Ganga Tourism Investment Guide,
facilitate the travel of people in the region, expand multi-modal
communication and transportation links to enhance travel and tourism and
promote cultural-religious package tours.

 The Declaration committed the member countries the develop transport
networks - in particular the ``East-West Corridor'' and the
``Trans-Asian Highway'' - under the rubric of transport and

 The promotion of air services and linkages in the MGC region and the
strengthening of cooperation in the development of IT infrastructure and
networks also form part of the joint statement issued by the six

 The grouping agreed to promote joint research in the fields of dance,
music and theatrical forms and organise round-tables for journalists,
writers and experts in literature, performing arts, women's empowerment,
health and nutrition and the conservation, preservation and protection
of heritage sites and artefacts. The MGC consented to encourage the
establishment of networking and twinning arrangements among universities
in the region, translate classics of MGC countries into other MGC
languages and assured the participation in book fairs in member
countries on a commercial basis.

 A concept paper, approved by the six Ministers at what was formally
termed the inaugural ministerial meeting on the MGC, said the
cooperation arrangement, primarily aimed at increasing tourism, will
also serve as ``building blocks'' for other areas of mutual benefit. The
MGC's objective was to announce to the international community its
``political willingness and aspirations aimed at strengthening our
traditional bonds of friendship.''

 It would also facilitate inter-State movement and transit transport of
goods and people in the region. The concept paper made it clear that
ministerial meetings would be led by Foreign Ministers and would take
place back-to-back with the ASEAN Ministerial meeting (AMM) - Post
Ministerial conference (PMC) held annually in July of each year.

 ``The next ministerial meeting will take place in July 2001 at Hanoi.
The Chairmanship will be rotated in the alphabetical order,'' the paper
stated. Laos, which hosted the inaugural meeting, will remain MGC Chair
till July 2001 when Myanmar will take over and continue till July
2002.The country, which is serving as Chair, shall act as the
secretariat to carry out coordination and implementation of the
cooperation plan.

 Clearly, the MGC reflects a new beginning in India's cooperation
efforts with Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.