Oil, gas, mineral, exploration potential with Cambodia huge: Patil

On board Air India One, Sep.18 (ANI): President Pratibha Patil said on Saturday that Cambodia views oil and natural gas, mineral extraction, agriculture and tourism as areas for bilateral cooperation with India in future.

Speaking to reporters on board Air India One, President Patil said: "In Cambodia, I held talks with King Norodam Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly. The Cambodian leaders warmly recalled India's invaluable support for Cambodia during its most difficult times. They appreciated our developmental assistance and discussed new areas of cooperation."

Patil said that the Prime Minister Hun Sen mentioned oil and gas, mineral extraction, agriculture and tourism as future areas for bilateral cooperation. "I invited His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni to visit India, which he accepted. The dates will be worked out through diplomatic channels."

She also informed that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperation between our Comptroller and Auditor General and the National Audit Authority of Cambodia was signed. A 15 million dollars Credit Line Agreement between EXIM Bank and the Cambodian Government was signed for Phase II of the Stung Tassal Water Development Project.

"I announced a financial grant of 246,000 dollars for upgradation of the Cambodia-India Friendship School. I attended the India- Cambodia Business meeting in Phnom Penh. I also performed the ground breaking and foundation stone laying ceremony of the Asian Traditional Textiles Museum being set up under the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Programme, " Patil said.

She said on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia has played a vital role as the host and ASEAN Chair in 2002 for the first ASEAN-India Summit. "Cambodia is currently the Coordinator for India-ASEAN interaction and will again hold the ASEAN Chair in 2012 when we will host the Commemorative India-ASEAN summit in India," Patil stated.

"The grandeur and scale of the historical monuments I had visited," Patil said, "has been particularly impressive in both Siem Reap and Luang Prabang. In my meetings with the governors of these provinces, they both mentioned the old links with India. Our shared cultural heritage is very much in evidence in the architecture, the language, the religion, the art and culture and the social customs of our countries."

She added that the Baci ceremony in Laos in which threads are tied, is very reminiscent of our Raksha Bandhan festival. "We are proud of India's contribution to the restoration works in Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm in Cambodia and Wat Phu in Laos," Patil said.

The President was accompanied by Kantilal Bhuria Union Minister for Tribal Affairs and by Members of Parliament Mohan Singh, N. Peethambara Kurup and Anandrao Adsul.

"They actively participated in the various events during the visit. They, like me, were deeply impressed with the commonality of culture and the ancient linkages with Laos and Cambodia, and the commitment of the leaders of the two countries to forge stronger bonds of friendship with India. I believe that greater economic engagement and people-to-people contacts, particularly among the youth and students will be the catalysts for this," said Patil.

A business delegation comprising representatives from Indian companies and the three major business associations-CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM, also accompanied President Patil during her tour.

Patil told reporters that: "As we look at our objective of greater economic engagement with these countries, it will be our companies and business organizations who will explore possibilities, and increase trade and investment levels."

Patil said that she was touched by the exceptional affection and personal warmth extended to her in both Laos and Cambodia from the leadership and the people. "I am convinced that my visit to Laos and Cambodia has served to reinforce our traditional ties and will also help us to forge new links for the future," Patil stated. resident Patil visited Laos and Cambodia at the invitation of President Choummaly Sayasone of Laos and Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia.

Her visit to these countries was undertaken to reinforce the deep historical and cultural ties which India has with these countries dating back to more than 2000 years, and to build a dynamic economic and developmental partnership on these foundations.

The last visit of an Indian President to Laos and Cambodia was that of first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad in March, 1959. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)

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