The Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC) was established on November 10, 2000, at Vientiane, Laos at the First MGC Ministerial Meeting.
The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) is an initiative by six countries – India and five ASEAN countries, namely, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
The organization takes its name from the Ganga and the Mekong, two large rivers in the region.
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.
The MGC is also indicative of the cultural and commercial linkages among the member countries of the MGC down the centuries.
Culture, Education, Transport and Communication are four pillars of Mekong Ganga Cooperation.
Objective of Mekong Ganga Cooperation
The Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC) aims at developing closer relations and better understanding among the member countries to:
enhance friendship, solidarity and cooperation.
Facilitating inter-state movement and transit.
Transport of goods and people in the region.
Creating necessary infrastructural facilities in the Ganga-Mekong basin areas
Encouraging active participation in poverty eradication.
Mekong Ganga Cooperation: Structure
The institutional structure of the MGC is yet to evolve properly. According to a preliminary concept paper approved by the MGC, Ministerial Meetings would be held annually back-to-back with the Annual Ministerial Meetings (AMMs).
The chairmanship will be rotated in alphabetical order.
The country which serves as chair shall act as the Secretariat to carry out coordination and implementation of the Cooperation plan.
Mekong Ganga Cooperation: Working Mechanism
The working mechanism of Mekong Ganga Cooperation consists of the Annual Ministerial Meetings, Senior Officials Meetings (SOM), and 5 working groups.
These 5 working groups look after the cooperative areas of MGC. They are as follows:
Working group of Education
Working group of Tourism
Working group of Culture
Working group of Plans of Action
Working group of Communication
India’s Sector-wise Approach in MGC
Due to much untapped potential of tourist inflows from Mekong countries in particular, India has been working to increase the direct air connectivity between major tourist spots.
Under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), Centres for English Language Training (CELTs) have been established in Cambodia (August 2007 at the Royal Academy of Cambodia), Laos (June 2007 at the National University of Laos), Myanmar (2009 at the National University of Yangon) and Vietnam (Danang July 2009).
India provides scholarships to the MGC countries on an annual basis under the bilateral and multilateral tracks.
The scheme is administered by ICCR but it is being budgeted through ASEAN ML Division.
In the ninth MGC meeting, India agreed to offer five more scholarships to Mekong countries in museology and conservation techniques, which could significantly benefit the MGC Asian Traditional Textile Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
India has always supported connectivity corridors, especially the concept of the East-West corridors connecting India to the Mekong region.
India has taken substantial commitment in the development of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which connects Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand.
CLMV countries would like India to commit to the extension of the Trilateral Highway to Cambodia and Lao PDR and also a new highway linking Vietnam.
India has proposed a Joint Working Group on Maritime Connectivity between India, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Viet Nam to explore Maritime Cargo route/Coastal Shipping services between these countries.
India constructed the MGC Museum of Traditional Asian Textiles at Siem Reap, Cambodia at a cost of US $1.772 million. The land was given by Cambodia.
In the ninth MGC meeting, India called for expanding the areas of cooperation among the member countries of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) bloc to further deepen mutually beneficial partnership and cooperation.
Preservation of historical and cultural monuments – Exchange of delegations, the conduct of workshops and training programmes are undertaken. India offers 10 scholarships (two each to member countries) in museology and conservation techniques training.
Common Archival Resource Center (CARC) at Nalanda University to be established.
Public Health and Tradition Medicine
Promotion in cooperation in workshops and training on the eradication of communicable and non-communicable diseases with high incidences.
Water Resource Management
India to conduct training programmes and workshops to exchange experiences and best practices in community farming and water resource management.
Science and Technology
Innovation Forum to be hosted in one of the MGC countries.
It seeks to promote social innovations in agriculture, transport, communication, industrial know-how transfer, e-commerce, information and communication technology (ICT), health, energy and environment, food etc.
The organisation of the MGC trade fair in one of the MGC countries.
Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) to conduct research studies on ‘Integration of MGC MSMEs into a Regional Production Chain: Potential and Challenges’.
Mekong Ganga Cooperation Activities
The inaugural meet in November 2000 identified tourism, culture, and the development of human resources as the first steps on a road that will lead to greater networking of communications, transport, and infrastructure development.
In the tourism field, the MGC is committed to conducting strategic studies for joint marketing, launching the Mekong-Ganga Tourism Investment Guide, facilitating the travel of people in the region, expanding multimodal communication as well as transportation links to improve travel and tourism and promoting cultural-religious package tours.
In the field of infrastructure development, member-countries are committed to developing transport networks, especially the “East-West Corridor” and the “Trans-Asian Highway”.
When completed, the Asian highway project is expected to link Singapore with New Delhi in South Asia via Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Vientiane, Chiang Mal, Yangon, Mandalay, Kalemyo, Tamu, Dhaka, and Kolkata.
Other areas of cooperation include air services and linkages, and IT infrastructure and networks.
In the field of culture, the grouping is to undertake joint research in the field of music, dance, and theatre forms and conduct roundtables for writers, journalists, and experts in various fields such as literature, health, women’s empowerment, performing arts and nutrition.
Focus is also to be given to the conservation, preservation, and protection of heritage sites and artefacts.
Cooperation is also envisaged in the establishment of networking and twinning arrangements among universities in the region.
The translation of classics of MGC countries into other MGC languages.
Participation of member-countries in book fairs on a commercial basis.