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Ansari in Cambodia to boost ties as part of Act East policy

Vice President Hamid Ansari arrived here on Tuesday on the first leg of his four-day two-nation tour that will also take him to Laos as India seeks an "enduring partnership" and enhanced economic engagement with ASEAN countries under its Act East policy.



Phnom Penh: Vice President Hamid Ansari arrived here on Tuesday on the first leg of his four-day two-nation tour that will also take him to Laos as India seeks an "enduring partnership" and enhanced economic engagement with ASEAN countries under its Act East policy.

Ansari was received at the Phnom Penh International Airport by Minister of Information Khieu Kanharitha and Indian Ambassador Naveen Shrivastava.

The Vice President's visit to Cambodia at the invitation of Prime Minister Hun Sen will focus particularly on shoring up bilateral trade and investment which remains "much below potential".

"Cambodia is a growing economy that has maintained a growth rate of about 7 per cent over the last several years. It is seeking greater socio-economic development. They are also a very young nation much like India and they are looking at opportunities for human resource development.

"We will assure them that they can count on India as a willing development partner," Secretary East Anil Wadhwa told reporters while ahead of Vice President's visit yesterday.

Ansari's visit is aimed at stepping up trade, investment, tourism and cultural linkages high on his agenda during the talks here.

Besides holding bilateral talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun, Ansari will also meet National Assembly President Heng Samrin and call on Acting Head of State and President of the Senate Say Chhum.

Ansari will also give a lecture on Cambodia-India Relations at the Office of the Council of Ministers.

The Vice President will also visit Angkor Wat temple and the Ta Prohm temple in Siem Reap province.

"We are also involved in the conservation and preservation of these great monuments and we hope that the Vice President's visit to these sites will encourage people to people contact as well as tourism," Wadhwa said.

Ansari will also visit the Mekong-Ganga Textile Museum in Siem Reap province.

He will also meet Indian community in Cambodia.

During Ansari's visit, India will look to step up its participation in infrastructure projects and capacity building.

After visiting the Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm temples, Ansari will leave for Laotian capital of Vientiane on Thursday.

His visit to Laos will be the first by an Indian Vice President.

"Visits to Cambodia and Laos, two important growing economies, will definitely reaffirm our pursuit of an enduring partnership with countries of ASEAN region which is part of our Act East policy," Wadhwa said.

"Our efforts in this direction have been towards undertaking infrastructure projects and capacity development programmes. Our trade and investment linkages have grown over the years, though they remain much below potential. We will also brief the interlocutors (during the visit) on the initiatives that India is taking to step up our economic engagement," Wadhwa said.

He said India is working on a new agreement to provide grant assistance for projects targeted towards social development which he hoped will be signed during the visit. Under Ministry of External Affairs "quick impact projects", umberella agreements will be signed in both Cambodia and Laos. Four such projects will be inked in Cambodia while five in Laos.

The projects in Laos range from agriculture sector to promotion of Indian goods. The projects will be completed within a span of three to six months.

The visit will focus on shoring up economic ties with the two growing economies, he said.

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 fora, including in stepping up engagement with ASEAN and it has also extended its unconditional support for India's bid for a permanent UNSC seat.

"It (Cambodia) played a very constructive role in upgrading our relationship with ASEAN to summit level in 2002 and as we deepen our engagement with ASEAN countries, Cambodia and Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam (CLMV) countries will attract special attention," Wadhwa said.

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