Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa on Monday described Mekong region pivotal to both India's Look East Policy and the Initiative for ASEAN Integration and Narrowing the Development Gap.
Speaking at inauguration of the MGC Museum of Asian Traditional Textiles, Wadhwa said the Museum is a commitment that the six MGC member countries undertook together in 2002. The foundation stone for this Museum was laid by the President of India in September 2010 and the building finished in January 2012.
Congratulating the organizations and the people who worked tirelessly to construct building for the Museum, Wadhwa said, "I must also compliment all the people who helped to put together exhibits from the MGC countries over the last two years to help realize this very important project."
He also emphasized on the Museum being an unparalled symbol of the civilizational connections in the region defined by the Mekong and the Ganga.
Wadhwa asserted that the Mekong Ganga Cooperation forum seeks to build on the flow of ideas, knowledge, crafts and traditions, philosophy and religion, goods and trade and people-to-people linkages that have been continuous over centuries from the Mekong to the Ganga.
"There is a deep cultural empathy within this region, a natural comfort level that comes from centuries of cooperation and partnership. Both the Mekong and the Ganga have been the life-thread weaving together cultures, traditions and, I must say, the very way of life in our countries into a single fabric as common heritage," he added.
Adding that the site of the MGC Museum of Asian Traditional Textiles in Siem Reap as impressive for being located next to the heritage site of Angkor Wat, Wadhwa said it will emphasize the civilizational synergy between our countries.
"The concept of the four galleries in the Museum devoted to materials and processes, traditional and contemporary trends in textiles and the provision of travelling exhibitions will help to keep the Museum dynamic," he added.
He noted that the textile traditions in the region have always been a vivid form for artistic expression, and added that weaving styles and techniques have been diverse and, yet, have incorporated similarities and influences which came with merchants, travellers and migrants across the region.
"I hope the Museum, while showcasing these traditions and this rich heritage, will also be at the forefront of preservation and promotional activities. This Museum should be illustrative not only of the cultural and civilizational linkages between us but also of our commercial trade over centuries," he added.
He also said that the commercial or economic viability is a very important dimension for the preservation and sustainability of these textile traditions and it will help create an eco-system which allows textile traditions to continue as an art form as also a means of livelihood.
"I would, therefore, like to see it being managed not only with a sense of past history but also current relevance and future potential. A resource-rich library and archival system, a conservation laboratory, a documentation and audio-visual unit should become part of the Museum at the earliest. Our Ambassador in Cambodia will be pusuing these objectives with our MGC colleagues with a sense of urgency," he said.
He asserted that India would soon be suggesting courses under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme for MGC countries to train one representative each from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam in museology and conservation techniques.
"We hope that, after completion of these training packages, these persons will work in the MGC Museum for atleast two years. Our Missions in MGC capitals would be taking this further," he added.
He said that MGC Museum must develop as a 'LIVE' Museum as it can bring together on one platform experts, artisans, craftsmen and researchers from the MGC countries.
"We could take our textile traditions one step further by integrating them also with workshops on other traditional art forms like painting, literature, puppetry, as also performance arts and fashion trends. All these arts have been intrinsically linked to the textile traditions in the region. There has always been an integrated approach to culture in our countries, bringing together language, traditions, conventions, dress and cuisine etc. The Museum has space, which could be used to showcase such interactive syntheses.
He also suggested annual regularity in the meeting of the Board of the MGC Museum and said that it is important that we continue to see a forward looking and inclusive approach.
"I request the authorities in Cambodia to look at strengthening this new Museum by allowing a free entry into the MGC Museum of Asian Traditional Textiles on the ticket of Ankor Wat for the next one year. This will help us to increase footfall into the new Museum and strengthen awareness amongst visitors of the common heritage amongst MGC member countries. The ticket proceeds subsequently from the second year from the ticket of the MGC Museum could be available to APSARA towards the maintenance cost of the MGC Museum," he added.