Indian President Droupadi Murmu stressed the importance of concerted efforts to expand tourism and people-to-people contacts to further strengthen Cambodia-India bilateral relations, as she met with King Norodom Sihamoni at the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace on May 30.

Sihamoni paid his first state visit to India from May 29-31.

Murmu noted that there is great potential for further growth in trade and investment between the two nations, and that India is also keen to further elevate its defence relations with Cambodia.

“She also emphasised the need to make efforts to increase tourism and people-to-people contacts for further elevating bilateral relations,” said the presidential office in a May 30 press release.

Murmu noted that India has spearheaded the interests of the developing countries of the global south since it assumed the rotating presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20).

She appreciated Prime Minister Hun Sen’s participation in the inaugural session of the Voice of Global South Summit in February this year and congratulated Cambodia for successfully completing its chairmanship of ASEAN last year.

“King Sihamoni’s visit demonstrates the importance that Cambodia attaches to bilateral ties with India. The two nations share a rich and vibrant relationship. We value our shared history and consider Cambodia as our civilizational sister country,” she added.

Murmu hosted a banquet in the King’s honour, saying that India is privileged to partner Cambodia on its quest for national growth through capacity building, the development of human resources and assistance with socio-economic projects.

She said India is a believer in the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means “The World Is One Family”.

“[The] multifaceted ties between India and Cambodia, and the august presence of His Majesty at Rashtrapati Bhavan with us today, are beautiful expressions of this age-old concept,” Murmu was cited as saying.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi echoed the remarks in his May 30 tweet after meeting with the King.

“It was a pleasure to interact with King Sihamoni. We had a positive exchange of views on our close cultural and people-to-people ties and development partnership,” he tweeted.

A May 31 press release from Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said India had reaffirmed its continued support for the restoration and conservation of the Kingdom’s ancient temples and mine clearance activities, as well as other mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries in the years to come.

“During the discussion with His Majesty, [Modi] offered to conserve the Ramayana murals in the Royal Palace,” it said.

“The two sides expressed their firm confidence that the solid foundation of their bilateral relations would serve as a stepping stone to further deepen and foster cooperation in all areas of common interests toward a bright and prosperous future for both nations,” it added.

The King made an open invitation for Murmu to visit Cambodia at a mutually convenient time, according to the release.

Murmu accepted and expressed her appreciation for the invitation.

Royal Academy of Cambodia secretary-general Yang Peou said experience has shown that promoting people-to-people contacts between countries can lead to stronger and more cohesive relations.

He cited the example of the relationship between Cambodia and China, which reached the level of “iron clad” and “diamond cooperation” because of the closeness of their people-to-people relations “The closeness of the two governments has also led to increased investment and understanding,” he told The Post on May 31.

“It is a good idea to push for close relations between India and Cambodia, as the cultures of both nations are a reflection of one another, from the pre-Khmer Empire times to the present.”