- India-Cambodia Bilateral Relations
Historically, India-Cambodia relations are a product of Hindu and Buddhist religious and cultural interactions. The interactions between India on the one hand and various parts of Southeast Asia can be traced back to 4th, 5th and 6th century AD. Though Cambodia, like most of its neighbours, is predominantly a Buddhist country, there is a strong influence of Hindu rituals, idolatry and mythology in Cambodian society.
The pervading influence of Hinduism, Buddhism and also the Indian architecture are borne out by the structures at Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphuon and other religious and historical sites in Cambodia.
India-Cambodia bilateral relations are warm and cordial. In the 1950s India was associated with International Control Commission on Indo-China. After the collapse of Khmer Rouge regime, India recognized the Heng Samrin regime and opened its Embassy in Phnom Penh in 1981 when most other countries of the world shunned Cambodia. This fact along with India’s association with the Paris Peace Accords and their finalisation in 1991 is fondly remembered by the Cambodian leadership. India also committed military and non-military personnel for the conduct of the UNTAC-sponsored elections in 1993. Furthermore, Government of India responded to an appeal by Cambodian Government to undertake the conservation of the famous Angkor Wat temple during the period 1986 to 1993 at a cost of US$4 million, at a time when peace in the country was yet to be firmly established.
The contemporary times have witnessed expansion of cooperation in diverse fields such as institutional capacity building, human resource development, and extension of financial assistance in infrastructure building, security and defence. India-Cambodia Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation
(JCM) is the main framework under which various initiatives to further develop and boost bilateral cooperation are taken. On political front, both countries have demonstrated willingness to further enhance bilateral cooperation through exchange of Ministerial visits and through interactions at regional and international forums. From India, prominent high-level visits included visits of Vice President (2001), Prime Minister (2002) and EA Minister (2003). Cambodian PM Hun Sen had visited India many times and the last one was in 2007.
Total bilateral trade in the year 2008-09 was US$49.61 million with Indian export of US$46.90 million and import of US$2.72 million. Potential exists for enhanced economic engagement between the two countries. To achieve this objective, the First India-Cambodia Trade and Investment Business Forum, Exhibition and Buyer Seller Meet was organized in Phnom Penh on 11-12 November, 2009. A number of trade delegations visited Cambodia recently to explore business opportunities, and held buyers-sellers meet. Bank of India opened its branch in Phnom Penh in May, 2009 and this development is expected to assist in improving bilateral trade and investment ties.
Towards capacity building in Cambodia, Government of India has set up in Phnom Penh under IAI Programme Cambodia-India Entrepreneurship Development Centre (CIEDC) in February, 2006 and Cambodia-India Centre for English Language Training (CICELT) in August, 2007. As for Human Resource development, till date, Cambodia has utilized 828 civilian training slots and 96 defence training slots under ITEC. Taking note of increasing demand for civilian training courses, slots for Cambodia under ITEC have been enhanced to 85 from 75 since 2009-2010. Separately, 14 educational scholarships have been offered, 10 under MGC and 4 under CEP/GCSS (2 each). These scholarships too are fully utilized. An Indian expert in water management has been deputed for one year period since May, 2009 under ITEC to assist APSARA Authority at Siem Reap. There has been regular exchange of cultural troupe performances. Indian TV serials (Zee TV and Star Plus) and Hindi movies (dubbed in Khmer) are quite popular in Cambodia. Proposal for setting up of a Sanskrit Chair at a university in Cambodia is under consideration.
India has extended bilateral financial assistance to Cambodia through grants and Lines of Credit. Since December, 2003, a team of ASI has been working for restoration of Ta Prohm Temple in Siem Reap with funds provided under ITEC programme. Several projects under India’s Lines of Credit in the areas of electric transmission lines (US$30 million), irrigation (US$15 million) and installation of water pumps (US$5.2 million) are under implementation. During 2002, India gifted medicines and 10,000 tons of rice. India gifted 26,000 jars of indelible ink to Cambodia for the general elections in July, 2003. India made a bilateral contribution of US$1 million for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the first country to pledge a cash contribution to Cambodia’s national share of the court of the Tribunal. Proposals for setting up Centre of Excellence in IT and installation of hand-pumps in rural Cambodia under grants-in-aid are under process. India has offered financial assistance for setting up of the Museum of Traditional Asian Textiles at Siem Reap under Mekong Ganga Cooperation initiative.
In the last few years, there has been a steady enhancement of defence cooperation between the two countries. Exchange of visits of defence officials, goodwill visits by Indian Naval Ships, supply of medical equipment and other stores and imparting basic training courses to RCAF personnel in demining are some of the activities undertaken by the two countries. On security front, India and Cambodia signed an Agreement on Combating International Terrorism, Organized Crimes and Illicit Drug Trafficking in December, 2005.
India and Cambodia cooperate in a number of multilateral and regional fora. Cambodia has been a strong proponent of enhanced interaction between India and the ASEAN. In the context of our ‘Look East’ policy and the ASEAN, Cambodia is an important interlocutor and a good partner. Currently, Cambodia is the country coordinator for India in the ASEAN.
There are about 1500 Indian nationals working in various fields in Cambodia. Most of them are based in the capital city, Phnom Penh. The Indians in Cambodia have formed an association called ‘Indian Association – Cambodia’. Phnom Penh has a street named after Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. A bust of Mahatma Gandhi, gifted by India, has been installed at a prominent location in Phnom Penh.