Mekong Ganga Cooperation
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Baljit Dhaka
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Mekong Ganga Cooperation

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Mekong Ganga Cooperation

Why in News?

The 10th Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Ministerial Meeting (10th MGC MM) was held in August 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand.  

 

Highlights of the meeting

  • The new MGC Plan of Action 2019-2022 was adopted that envisages project-based cooperation in the seven areas of MGC cooperation, namely tourism and culture, education, public health and traditional medicine, agriculture and allied sectors, transport and communication, MSMEs three new areas of cooperation, i.e. water resources management, science and technology, skill development and capacity building.
  • The ministers agreed to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of MGC in 2020.
  • The ministers reiterated the importance of tourism cooperation and recalled that 2019 has been identified as the "India-ASEAN Tourism Year”. 

About Mekong- Ganga Cooperation

  • It is an initiative by six countries – India and five ASEAN countries, namely, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam for cooperation in tourism, culture, education, as well as transport, and communications.
  • It was launched in 2000 at Vientiane, Laos.
  • Both the Ganga and the Mekong are civilizational rivers, and the MGC initiative aims to facilitate closer contacts among the people inhabiting these two major river basins.
  • It is also indicative of the cultural and commercial linkages among the member countries of the MGC down the centuries. 

Why Mekong Ganga Cooperation is significant for India?

  • Reaffirmation of India’s Act East Policy by effectively integrating with the region.
  • Development of the North East Region if trade and industry flourish in the entire region overland trade via Myanmar to many MGC countries. Brahmaputra Valley is a key aspect in making the Mekong- Ganga Cooperation Project • Boost to cultural and commercial cooperation effective and harvesting favorable social and economic gains.
  • Make in India- Wide experience of Mekong countries in manufacturing can be utilized by India in its make in India endeavor.
  • Balancing China’s assertiveness in the region. China’s dominance can be seen in controlling the waters of the Mekong river upstream.
  • Stronger place in World Politics India’s political leadership in the region will provide it a high ground in world politics.

Joint Initiatives By MGC 

  • Quick Impact Projects: India’s initiative in the MGC Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) includes a total of 24 projects, including 15 in Cambodia, 9 in Vietnam, 1 in Cambodia, and 3 in Laos. India has further signed MOUs for 18 additional projects in Cambodia and 5 projects with Vietnam. 
  • Myanmar is urged to identify projects of mutual interest under the QIP Scheme.
  • In Myanmar, India does not have any QIPs under MGC, as several community development projects are being implemented bilaterally under the Rakhine State Development Programme (RSDP) and India’s Border Area Development Programme. India would also establish digital villages in Mekong countries.  
  • Project Development Fund: India’s recently pledged INR 5 billion (equivalent to USD 72.5 million) under a Project Development Fund to facilitate Indian investments in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
  • Connectivity Projects: India had announced a USD 1 billion Line of Credit (LOC) for connectivity projects in  ASEAN. MGC intends for the early completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and its extension to Lao PDR, Cambodia, and VietNam. 
  • The member countries intend for the MGC framework to be synced with the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity 2025 and connectivity initiatives of other sub-regional and inter-regional frameworks such as BIMSTEC.
  • MGC intends for the early finalization of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Vehicle Agreement (IMT MVA).
  • Socio-Cultural Cooperation: India currently has a provision of 900 scholarships annually and the setting up of physical ICT infrastructure in Mekong countries. MGC member countries would establish the ‘Common Archival Resource Centre’ (CARC) at Nalanda University and would share information and materials on areas such as archaeological sites, world heritages, settlement History, history of trade, population & religious distribution data and historical linkages. MGC member countries also intend to increase presence in the Buddhist Tourism Trail in India.  
  • Water resource management: India’s Central Water Commission intends to become a partner of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to share their expertise on water resources information management. 
  • Water resources management would include cooperation in sustainable water management, water harvesting, water data collection, climate change adaptation and mitigation, integrated water resources management, groundwater management, transboundary basin management, water quality monitoring, flood and drought management, and disaster reduction.