Act East: India, ASEAN FMs meet on Wednesday; US invites New Delhi for Mekong ministerial meeting

New DelhiWritten By: Sidhant SibalUpdated: Aug 03, 2021, 04:29 PM IST

Delegates pose for a family photo at the ASEAN-China ministerial meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. Photograph:(Reuters)

Story highlights

US has invited India for the "Friends of the Mekong Ministerial Meeting" this year which will be co-chaired by US secretary of state Blinken on Thursday

External affairs minister Dr. S Jaishankar will take part in the India-ASEAN foreign ministers meet virtually on Wednesday.

Brunei will be the host of the meeting. The meeting will see the focus on COVID-19 cooperation and connectivity as the top priority. The meet is part of the annual mechanism and the group has a similar mechanism with the US, Australia, Russia, Canada and New Zealand. 

A number of engagements take place between ASEAN and India annually including at the leaders level. Earlier this year the 23rd ASEAN-India senior officials meeting had taken place and was co-chaired by Secretary (East) of the external affairs ministry Riva Ganguly Das and the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and SOM Leader of Thailand Thani Thongphakdi.

Wednesday will also see the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting which includes 10 ASEAN nations and eight other countries - China, Japan, Korea, Australia, India, Russia, New Zealand and the US.

The meeting will focus on regional political-security issues in the lead-up to the East Asia Summit in late October. The meeting will see India's Jaishankar, Russia's Lavrov, China's Wang Yi, and US Secretary of state Blinken together talking virtually.

Meanwhile, the US has invited India for the "Friends of the Mekong Ministerial Meeting" this year which will be co-chaired by US secretary of state Blinken on Thursday.

India has been invited along with the UK as an"observer". The meeting brings together the five lower Mekong countries and partners and institutions like World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

The Mekong River Commission Secretariat will also be participating for the first time. It’s the first Friends of the Mekong minister-level meeting since 2014.

India also has its own platform to engage with countries of the Mekong region - the Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC). It includes India along with Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.  

Last month a ministerial meet of the group took place during which India's quick impact projects were lauded. Since its inception in 2015, 38 projects have been completed while 30 other projects are under implementation.

"For India, the Mekong region is of great importance. India seeks multi-dimensional engagement with the Mekong countries. We need to broaden the base of our partnership by identifying newer areas of cooperation", EAM said at the meet virtually. 

It has been 20 years since the Mekong Ganga Cooperation(MGC) came into existence. The last ministerial meeting of the MGC took place in Bangkok.