H. E. Dr. Devyani Khobragade, Ambassador of India to Cambodia had a virtual meeting with H.E. Dr. Aun Pornmoniroth, Minister of Economy and Finance on 3rd June 2021.
Dr. Pornmoniroth recalled the age-old civilizational and cultural linkages between the two countries and expressed sympathy and solidarity with the people of India, who are bravely fighting the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also conveyed condolences to members of families, who have lost their near and dear ones due to the pandemic. Dr. Pornmoniroth briefed Ambassador Khobragade on the Covid-19 Cash Transfer Programme (CCTP) of the Royal Government of Cambodia to help vulnerable sections of the society and ensuring that the Kingdom’s economic engine is kept running “at least at a minimum” before activity returns to pre-pandemic norms.
Ambassador commended Cambodia’s efforts in handling the COVID-19 pandemic situation and stated that with each other’s active cooperation, both countries will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic soon. Dr. Khobragade briefed the Hon’ble Minister on various projects programs that the Government of India is undertaking in Cambodia, including 10 Quick Impact Projects every year targeting the people at the grass-root level in the fields of tourism, education, sanitation, health, IT, women empowerment, etc., capacity building under India’s Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, the establishment of 300-bed super-specialty hospitality in Cambodia under India’s Project Development Fund (PDF), signing of Bilateral Investment Treaty, initiating preliminary discussions on bilateral Free Trade Agreement for increasing trade and investment between the two countries, etc.
On other substantive issues, both sides agreed that the remaining minor issues in USD 36.92 million Stung Sva Hab project should be sorted out at the earliest and on-site work should commence as soon as possible. On India’s offer of USD 50 million defense LoC with a USD 5 million grant element. Dr. Pornmoniroth conveyed that the Ministry of Economy and Finance would be consulting the Ministry of Defence on the technical aspects.
As regards USD 1 billion LoC available to all ASEAN countries for physical and digital connectivity projects, the Hon’ble Minister categorically stated that digital connectivity is very important for Cambodia, and given India’s strengths in this field, it would be useful if projects in digital connectivity could be undertaken to utilize the USD 1 billion loan available for connectivity projects. Both sides also agreed that since Cambodia will be the Chair of ASEAN in 2022, suitable projects under ASEAN LoC and ASEAN-India Fund may be identified, which could be announced during the leaders’ Summit meeting. Towards this end, both sides agreed to form a Coordination Committee to discuss details further.
Ambassador has also raised the issue of a temporary ban on the import of buffalo meat and other meat products from India and requested the Hon’ble Minister to withdraw the ban immediately as the Pasteur Institute of Cambodia, which has collected and tested the samples, has already certified that all the samples are Covid-19 negative and fit for human consumption. It was also conveyed that in the absence of any scientific basis to prove that the COVID-19 virus spreads through food and packaging material, the temporary is becoming a non-tariff barrier. Ambassador also conveyed that the ban was also harmful to business sentiments, especially when both sides are trying to negotiate a Bilateral Free Trade Agreement. Dr. Pornmoniroth assured me that this is only a temporary measure and this would be reviewed expeditiously.
Source: India in Cambodia (Embassy of India, Phnom Penh)