As part of India's Look East Policy and for boosting trade and ties between India and the Southeast Asian region, major connectivity projects between the northeast and Myanmar need to be completed on time, say experts in New Delhi.
Releasing a report titled Transforming Connectivity Corridors between India and Myanmar into Development Corridors, top officials and experts said Myanmar, which shares an over 1,600 km border with four northeastern states, is a key part of the development of Indias northeast.
According to VS Seshadri, India's former ambassador to Myanmar who formulated the report, the timelines of the Trilateral Highway and Kaladan Multi-modal projects need to be straightened out fast, especially with democracy taking firmer root in Myanmar and its economy opening up. Both projects are officially set to be completed by 2016.
He pointed out that land border trade between India and Myanmar is much lower than between Myanmar and China. While formal land border trade between Moreh in Manipur and Tamu in Myanmar and Zokhawthar in Mizoram with Rhi in Myanmar amo-unts to around $35 million, the two-way trade between Muse in Myanmar and Jingao in China is worth over $2 billion.
The condition of roads on the Chinese side, in its Yunnan province, is also much better with double-laned roads. China has 22-wheeled tractor trucks parked on its side of the border which it uses to transport goods to Myanmar that exports mainly agricultural goods, like rice, said Seshadri.
However, informal land border trade between India and Myanmar is thriving with people of both sides, including women, carrying headloads of goods across small river borders. This trade is said to be about R35 billion ($573 million).
The former envoy said there is a realisation in Myanmar that its western sector, especially Rakhine state, that borders India, needs rapid development and it would welcome India taking the initiative in boosting development.
The expert also suggested that a broad gauge rail line that is supposed to be built in Imphal by 2018 could be extended to Moreh and then on to Kalay in Myanmars Sagaing division with international funding. It will be a crucial link in connectivity, he said.
There is a proposal to develop Moreh in Manipur into a major township, equipped with hospitals, educational institutes, banking facilities etc. that would go a long way in boosting ties and trade, he said. An Integrated Check Post is set to come up at Moreh by the end of