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THE MEKONG REGION GEOPOLITICS: INDIA



  May 31, 2024

THE MEKONG REGION GEOPOLITICS: INDIA



The Mekong region, also known as the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), encompasses the area surrounding the Mekong River, which flows through six countries: China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. This region is home to a rich cultural heritage, diverse ecosystems, and a population of over 300 million people. The Mekong River is vital to the region’s economy, supporting agriculture, fisheries, and transportation.

Notable Features of the Mekong Region:

• Biodiverse Ecosystems: The region includes tropical rainforests, wetlands, and mountains, supporting a wide range of flora and fauna.

• Vibrant Cultures: A mix of Buddhist, Hindu, and animist traditions enriches the cultural landscape.

• Cuisine: Known for fresh seafood, spicy curries, and fragrant street food.

• Historical Significance: Home to ancient temples, ruins, and colonial legacies.

• Dynamic Economies: Growing industries, trade, and tourism drive economic development.

Challenges Faced by the Mekong Region:

• Environmental Degradation: Threats to biodiversity and natural resources.

• Climate Change: Impacting agriculture, fisheries, and livelihoods.

• Poverty and Inequality: Disparities in wealth and access to resources.

• Political Instability: Conflicts and governance issues.

•Urbanization: Rapid development and its impact on infrastructure and society.

INDIA’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE MEKONG REGION THROUGH THE MEKONG-GANGA COOPERATION (MGC)

India’s engagement in the Mekong region has been significant, particularly through the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) initiative. This collaborative effort involves India and five ASEAN countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The MGC focuses on cooperation in tourism, culture, education, as well as transport and communications.

Key Highlights of India’s Role:

• Act East Policy: India’s Act East policy underscores the importance of peace and prosperity in the Mekong region. The MGC is crucial for realizing India’s vision for security and growth for all countries in the region. This policy aims to strengthen India’s strategic and economic ties with the ASEAN countries, fostering mutual growth and stability.

• Trade and Economic Integration: Trade between India and the MGC countries has seen a significant increase, growing from US$1.32 billion in 2000 to US$33.8 billion in 2022-2023. This growth highlights the potential for further economic integration between India and the Mekong countries, aiming to enhance regional trade and economic collaboration.

• Infrastructure Development: India has been actively involved in various flagship projects within the MGC framework. These include the MGC scholarships, the Centre for Excellence in Software Development training, and the MGC traditional textile museum. Such initiatives aim to build capacity and foster cultural and educational exchanges.

• Strategic Hedging: As the geopolitics of the Mekong region becomes increasingly complex, Mekong countries seek to engage all external partners effectively to avoid over-reliance on any single major power. India’s involvement through the MGC provides a strategic balance, offering an alternative partnership that promotes regional stability and development.

India’s engagement in the Mekong region through the MGC initiative reflects its commitment to building on historical ties and fostering an environment of growth, stability, and shared opportunities. The MGC’s focus on socio-economic development, narrowing the development gap, and supporting the ASEAN community-building process highlights the synergistic potential of sub-regional cooperation.



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