Top diplomats from the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) countries have pledged to strengthen sustainable management of water resources.

They also expressed the intention to cooperate with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to fortify partnerships around water-related matters.

The commitment was solidified at the 12th MGC Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in the Thai capital Bangkok on July 16.

The gathering was co-chaired by Lao Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Saleumxay Kommasith and Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. The Cambodian delegation was led by Sok Siphana, a senior adviser to the government.

The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation stated that the ministers agreed to optimise the functioning of the MGC.

They proposed improvements to the lead country mechanism for each cooperation area, and the establishment of an MGC business council.

The council is expected to guide future interactions to stimulate more trade, investment cooperation and extend regional economic activities.

“The ministers emphasised their commitment to strengthening cooperation on the sustainable utilisation and management of water resources. They also welcomed further collaboration with the MRC to enhance cooperation on water-related issues,” said the ministry in a July 18 press release.

The Mekong ministers applauded the MGC’s contribution in propelling the socio-economic development of their countries.

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam acknowledged India’s assistance through its Quick Impact Projects (QIP) scheme, noting that 78 projects have been completed since its inception in 2015.

Siphana underscored the importance of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway.

The major infrastructure project is set to foster economic and cultural relations between India and the Mekong countries. He expressed gratitude for India’s commitment to extend the highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

“The construction of this highway aligns with the master plan on ASEAN connectivity 2025 and India’s Act East Policy, both aimed at improving connectivity in the region,” he said.

Siphana suggested that the future direction of the MGC concentrate on digital transformation, green revolution, as well as economic, trade and investment cooperation.

The meeting concluded with the adoption of a joint ministerial statement with two annexes on the lead country mechanism and the MGC Business Council.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, expressed his support for the commitment to strengthen the sustainable management of water resources, due to increasing global warming intensifying natural resource crises, particularly with water.

“The MRC holds such a political commitment. Yet in the past, the Mekong River has been heavily utilised. Both China and Laos have constructed numerous dams on the main river.

“This crisis illustrates that political commitments are frequently made, but the actual execution is often indiscriminate,” he said.

Peou pointed out that the MGC holds geopolitical advantages for ASEAN, especially the high-speed expressway connection running from India through Myanmar and Thailand.

This link creates a significant connection between ASEAN and India, a country possessing considerable economic and cultural exchange potential.

“This has enriched ASEAN’s cooperative ties with major powers, like China through the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and India through the MGC,” he said.