On a crucial four-day visit to Cambodia and Laos, Vice President Md. Hamid Ansari on Tuesday held wide-ranging talks with Cambodian Premier Hun Sen to discuss a host of issues including shoring up of economic engagement and conveyed India’s decision to support several projects in Cambodia under the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation. On his first visit to Cambodia, Vice President Ansari is seeking to boost India’s enduring partnership and enhanced economic engagement with ASEAN countries under its Act East policy.
The talks were held at the the Peace Palace which was followed by delegation-level parleys and signing of two Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), one on tourism and the other on “quick impact projects”. The Vice President was accorded ceremonial welcome and guard of honour at the Peace Palace.
The MoU on “quick impact projects” covers four significant projects, two in healthcare, one on women’s empowerment through information and communication technology and one on agriculture. After the talks, VP Ansari also delivered an address on Cambodia-India ties at the Office of the Council of Ministers. He then paid floral tributes at Mahatma Gandhi’s statue.
“We hope to launch this new initiative soon and I am confident that in the near future more Indian companies will explore the investment opportunities here,” VP Ansari told the audience which included ministers, top officials and university and school students.
“The current economic relationship between India and ASEAN countries presents a multitude of industrial, commercial and investment opportunities,” the Vice President added.
In his meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Vice President conveyed the decision of the Indian government to support several projects under Mekong-Ganga Cooperation programme targeting the health sector, agriculture and women’s empowerment.
“We hope that these projects would benefit local communities, and contribute to improvement of public welfare,” Ansari said in the address at the Council of Ministers.
The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) was established in 2000 at Vientiane, Laos, at the First MGC Ministerial Meeting. It comprises six member countries, namely India, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. They emphasised four areas of cooperation, which are tourism, culture, education, and transportation linkage.
Earlier, soon after landing in Cambodia on Tuesday morning, Vice President Ansari paid a visit to the Independence Monument that was built in 1958 to symbolise Cambodian Independence from being a French protectorate. He also visited the Royal Memorial, a 27-metre tall shrine that has a bronze statue of Late King Norodom Sihanouk. The Vice President also laid a wreath at the two places.
During his visit, the VP will focus particularly on shoring up bilateral trade and investment which both the sides acknowledge has a tremendous potential. The leaders of the two countries are also expected to lay emphasis on strengthening the mutual areas like stepping up trade, investment, tourism and cultural linkages.
Total bilateral trade for 2013-2014 between India and Cambodia was USD 153.98 million (Indian export of USD 141.26 million and import of USD 12.72 million).
Cambodia has been very supportive of India’s position in multilateral foray, including in stepping up engagement with ASEAN and it has also extended its unconditional support for India’s bid for a permanent UNSC seat.
Vice President Hamid Ansari will also be meeting the members of Indian community in Cambodia as India looks to step up its participation in infrastructure projects and capacity building. After visiting the historic Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm temples, Vice President Hamid Ansari will leave for Laotian capital city of Vientiane on Thursday. His visit to Laos will be the first by an Indian Vice President.
(With inputs from the PTI)