Connecting Regions of Asia.

Acting East : Indian infrastructure projects in Myanmar

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In 1991, India was constrained to formulate its ‘Look East’ economic policy, after many decades of looking west and due to disintegration of USSR as also, due to serious economic problems arising in the country. The policy was framed out of economic necessity so as to integrate with the ASEAN and its member states and East Asia, as the entire Asian region was developing economically extremely rapidly. It was also believed that by ‘Looking East’ it would be possible to bring about development of India’s North East Region (NER) and thus end the insurgency in the region. India realized that for the Look East Policy to succeed India must improve relations with Myanmar – this was done simultaneously and by 1994 India and Myanmar signed a Border Trade Agreement and had made concerted diplomatic efforts to improve relations. India then became ASEAN’s full sectoral dialogue partner by 1995 and launched the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in 1997, which included the Bay of Bengal littoral countries and Bhutan and Nepal; the Mekong Ganga Cooperation Initiative and signed various Trade agreement with ASEAN, Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore amongst others.1,2,3,4.

India also became party to the Comprehensive Asia Development Plan (CADP) wherein Asian connectivity was planned and approved by related Governments by road and rail, by sea and by air. These plans included the Construction of a Trans Asian Highway and a similar Railway network. More or less in the same time frame the Kaladan Multimodal Transport Project was also conceived and approved. Further road connectivity was approved through Mizoram from Champhai in Mizoram to Tiddim in Myanmar. 5,6,7,8.

In 2014 the Indian PM announced the Act East Policy to substitute the Look East Policy, as he felt that the latter was not working effectively and so as to upscale India’s engagement and trade with the ASEAN and East Asia. It was also realized that with India having a 1450 km border with Myanmar, it was the gateway to the region. Thus, if trade was to pick up in volume, creation of adequate and seamless cross border and maritime infrastructure was imperative. Further if the NER was to be developed, this trade must be accelerated overland in a positive manner, notwithstanding the existing so called cross border trade carried out by the locals in the form of so called head loads.   Let us therefore examine these infrastructural projects.8

  1. India’s north-east – The Economist , Nov 15, 2014
  • A paper on, India – Myanmar – Thailand (IMT) Geo-economics of sub-regional Cooperation by Gurudas Das, 2017.
  • A paper on Connectivity and Trilateral Cooperation by Prabir De.
  • A paper on Trilateral Physical Connecrivity: Thailand’s Perspective by Suthiphand Chirathivat and Sineenat Sermcheep, 2017.
  • Paper on Evolution of Indian ASEAN Relations: Focussing Myanmar’s Role in Connecting South Asia and South East Asia by Dr Zaw Oo, 2017
  • Paper on Thailand and India, Trade and Investment Opportunity by Chayodom Sabhasri, 2017.
  • Asean India Centre at RIS, Mekong Delta Cooperation: Breaking Barriers and Scaling New Heights, New Delhi, 2017.
  • Power Point Presentation on Look and Act East by Arvind Kumar, Formerly of RIS at a Seminar on the subject at Mizoram University available with the author of 2016.

The Trilateral Highway (Asian Highway 1 – AH)

A highway connecting Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot on the Thailand border via Myanmar was first proposed in Yangon in April 2002. The length of the four-lane highway was to be approximately 1,360 km. India has also proposed extending the highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.  The proposed approximately 3,200 km route from India to Vietnam is known as the Asian East – West Economic Corridor (EWEC). In order to fulfil this plan, sections of existing roads needing to be upgraded and linked (all other sections were already operational as national highways) are explained below.

Moreh – Tamu – Kalemyo – Kalewa section– This 160 km long India – Myanmar Friendship Road, linking Moreh – Tamu – Kalemyo – Kalewa, was opened on 13 February 2001, and it now forms a part of AH1. It was constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and was transferred to the Government of Myanmar in 2009. The related agreement between India and Myanmar stipulated that India would widen and repave the existing roads in the area, while Myanmar would upgrade the single-lane bridges along the route. Myanmar however was unable to carry out their upgradation work. In 2012, India agreed to repave the existing highway and upgrade all 71 bridges that Myanmar had not upgraded. Myanmar stated that it would instead upgrade the Yargi – Monywa section and link this road to the existing motorway between Mandalay – Naw – Pyi – Taw and Yangon. Unfortunately even by 2015 Myanmar had not done so and India then agreed to upgrade the stretch from Moreh to Monywa. An alternate alignment for the stretch between Mandalay – Naw Pyi Taw and Yangon was also proposed by Myanmar.
Kalewa – Yagyi section – During the visit of the Myanmar President U. Htin Kyaw‘s to India in 2016, an MoU was signed with the Indian Government (GOI) under which India would fund the construction of 69 bridges in the Tamu – Kyigone – Kalewa section (149.70 km) of the highway, and also upgrade the Kalewa – Yagyi section (120.74 km). India agreed to fund renovation of 73 bridges that were built during World War II. India and Myanmar also agreed to speed up construction of the highway. By November 2017 the BRO had completed upgrading the 160 km Tamu – Kalewa – Kalemyo section in Myanmar at a cost of US$27.28 mn. In August 2017, GOI also allocated US$256 mn to upgrade 1,360 km of the highway from Moreh in Manipur through Tamu, Myanmar to Mae Sot in Thailand. On 6 September 2017, the National Highway (NH) Authority of India awarded a US$180 mn contract for construction of the Kalewa-Yagyi stretch. The 120 km stretch is to be upgraded to a two-lane road to be completed in 3 years by April 2021.9,10,11.

Myawaddy – Thinggan Nyenaung – Kawkareik section – The 25.6 km long Myawaddy – Thinggan Nyenaung – Kawkareik section of the highway was inaugurated by Thai and Myanmar officials on 30 August 2015, reducing travel time between Thinggan Nyenaung and Kawkareik from three hours to 45 minutes. Construction on the section had begun in 2012.
Ein Du – Thaton section– – In February 2017, Myanmar approved Thailand upgrading a 68 km section of the road between Thaton in Mon State and Ein Du in Kayin State. The upgrade would be financed by Thailand at a cost of US$ 51 million. Under the project, the road would be widened and its surface improved. Myanmar also requested Thailand to assist in the development of other sections of the highway.
Moreh ICP in India is now functioning. Tamu is the border town on Myanmar side. Border crossing and ICP between Myanmar and Thailand is operational. A trial run of passenger vehicles on the highway up to Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, was carried out in November 2015 in which Indian vehicles travelled on the Imphal – Mandalay – Bagan -Naypyidaw route and back, with Myanmar vehicles joining the Indian vehicles on the return journey. A car rally was flagged off by the governments of the three countries from New Delhi.

  1. Personal visits, Interactions with locals and others on ground and experiences of the Author to all locations described physically.
  2. Eye on China, India speeds up infra projects in Myanmar – Times of India
  3. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/…india…myanmar-projects/…/59116582.cm

Oct 26, 2017 – India News:
India puts Myanmar highway project on the fast track – Livemint https://www.livemint.com › Companies › Management Sep 6, 2017.

Agreements – In 2015, India proposed a trilateral Motor Vehicle Agreement to facilitate seamless movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the three countries. As of date this awaits the approval of the Myanmar Government. In early 2018, a visa agreement was signed for the citizens of two nations to travel by road for education, medical assistance, tourism and other purposes. In September 2017, India proposed an ImphalMandalay, India – Myanmar bus service after India and Myanmar sign the motor vehicle agreement.

Positive Points and Problematic Issues Related to the TriLateral Highway, 11, 12, 13,14,15,16,17,18.

.       The most prominent ‘high’ of the entire Trilateral Highway Project is that all three affected Governments (India, Myanmar and Thailand) are actively pushing the project and have evinced keen interest in trying to make it work. Under the circumstances provided the three Governments can resolve their relevant related problems given below the project would undoubtedly be a game changer for the entire region.

·          India must achieve a resolution to the insurgency along the entire route of AH 1 within India, i.e., in the Bodo belt of Assam, ULFA insurgency in Lower and Central Assam, Karbi Anglong, North Cachar Hills, Manipur and Nagaland. Myanmar must do the same across the Myanmar border in Sagaing and part of Kachin States – the Somra Naga Hill Tracts. Extortion along the route is extensive hence it is not at all cost effective to ply trucks on the same – it is in fact currently cheaper and safer to send goods from the NER via the Chicken’s neck to Kolkata and further to Myanmar/Thailand by sea due to this problem.17,19,20.

·         It needs to be noted that Myanmar strongly feels that unless India resolves the law and order situation in Manipur, trade along the Trilateral Highway would, on the Indian side remain in the hands of Indian smugglers and insurgent groups as at present and not increase in volume. They also openly express that Indian execution of any project takes too long – other countries execute work much faster and better.

·         Thailand also feels that India must resolve the insurgency problem if cross border trade is to work effectively – Thailand also talks openly about there being a “Trust Deficit” between Indian and Thai businessmen due to the unscrupulous character of some of them. This aspect needs to be attended to by the GOI.

·         Finding an early resolution of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the issues related to the National Register of Citizens(NRC) failing which, the AH1 route is likely to be blocked by agitators.

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  1. Myanmar’s Approach to India | The Diplomat
  2. India, Thailand, Myanmar working on 1,400km link road | India News

Oct 26, 2017

by BN BHATTACHARYAY

By Shriniwas Mudgerikar Chief General Manager CONCOR

  • In the view of the author, pending resolution of the Naga Accord issue and insurgency in Manipur and Nagaland, there is need to develop and channelize all major trade through Mizoram – Silchar – Aizawl – Selling – Champhai – Zokhawthar – Rhi – Tiddim – Kalewa on the Friendship Highway. This could be considered to be a loop to AH1. While this route also stands approved for development, no construction on the same has commenced – this must be speeded up (Widening and improvement of road from Selling to Champhai, completion of the new road from Champhai to Zokhawthar, and construction of the road from Zokhawthar to Tiddim).19,20,21,22.

·          The substantial illegal trade and smuggling and the battle for conrol of the same by the NSCN (IM) the Kukis and the Meitei insurgent groups on the Tamu – Moreh route has to be brought under control and illegal trade on Zokhawthar Rhi border which is very substantial has to be regularized.17,19,20.

 

·         It is not cost effective to transport goods from Kolkata or North India by road via AH I through the NER to Myanmar or Thailand in comparison to shipping them by sea to Dawei and thence to Bangkok or Rangoon or to ship these goods direct to South East Asia – attention is drawn to research carried out by Prof Gurudas Das of Silchar in this regard.2. The Private sector and the Indian, Myanmar and Thailand Governments need to invest and set up suitable industry in Manipur, Barak Valley, Mizoram and Tripura based on availability of local resources for export from there. If that is not done all that we will have is roads without development. Currently there is only a flow of mainly Chinese origin goods (and a sprinkling of Myanmarese goods) from Myanmar with little or no movement of goods from India to Myanmar.2.

·         The local population must be involved in the project and the Act East Policy – locals all say that while in the overall context the project may be of help to develop the region, they have not been involved and that they will not accept mere transit of goods through their territory without value addition, i.e. setting up of industry which gives locals employment and improve their standard of living. 22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29.

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  • The Naga Accord & its Adverse Effects in Manipur By Lt Gen J R Mukherjee, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd) published in CENERS – K Journal.
  • Recent Developments in India’s North East : Future Challenges and Prospects By Lt Gen J R Mukherjee, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd) published in CENERS – K Journal, Volume I.
  • Law & Order Situation in Manipuri News on Discussion …
  1. Terrorism – South Asia Terrorism Portal for law and order situation in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Meghalaya, and Mizoram www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states
  2. Bid to build Asean road link – Telegraph India  – https://www.telegraphindia.com › Business

Jan 26, 2018

  1. Manipur and India’s ‘Act East’ Policy | The Diplomat  Feb 25, 2015
  2. India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway – Wikipedia
  1. Trilateral Economic Corridor – A paper focusing on Trilateral Highway project of India, Myanmar and Thailand in line with the NLD Government’s Economic Policy by Shwe Hein.
  2. A paper on, From Trust Crisis to Demand Driven International Trade Policy, A Case Study of India Myanmar and Thailand by Piti Srisangnam and Pechittra Kongkittingam.
  3. ORF Issue Brief, June 2016, Issue No 147, Understanding the BCIM Economic Corridor and India’s Respose.
  4. An Insider’s Experience of Insurgency in India’s North-East By Lt Gen J R Mukherjee, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd), Wimbledon Publishing Co., London, 2005.

·         The Sichar – Badarpur – Bishnupur – Imphal NH 53 is in extremely bad condition and not useable except in dry weather. This needs urgent doing up. Even the NH 39 through Nagaland is in bad shape. 9.

·         The NH 44 from Silchar to Shillong also needs upgradation and major repair in patches.9

The Kaladan Multi – Modal Transit Transport Project,9,30,31,32,33,34,35,36.

This project will connect the port of Kolkata with Sittwe port (old Akyab) in Rakhine State of Myanmar by sea. It will link Sittwe seaport to Paletwa, in Chin State, Myanmar, via the Kaladan river and then by road to Zorinpui village in Mizoram state in Northeast India. The project was scheduled to be completed by 2014, but is now expected to be operational only by 2020 earliest (in the authors view this may not happen till 2022/23 or even later) as all components of the project are not complete. While Sittwe port, dredging of river River Kaladan, Paletwa jetty, have been completed, as of date the construction of the 109 km Zorinpui – Paletwa road has yet to start and the 100 km stretch of road in Mizoram from Zorinpui to Lawngtlai  still has bridges to be completed, as also final surfacing and black topping of the road. The project has several sections combining multi-modes of transport as below

Section 1Sea – 539 km of shipping route from Kolkata in India to Sittwe in Myanmar via Bay of Bengal. While this sea route has been operational for several decades Sittwe, has required construction of concrete jetties, upgradation of facilities and dredging to take only small ships of 6000 dwt.  Bigger ships would therefore have to anchor about 10 kms off shore, off load their cargo into barges to be taken into Sittwe port. In comparison the Chinese have leased Kyaukpyu just about 50 kms to the South which is a deep sea port capable of taking in all types of shipping. This will need resolution by the GOI – larger ships would have to probably use Dawei, further to the South, being developed by Thailand for Myanmar.

Section 2 – River – 158 km river route by Inland Water Transport (IWT) from Sittwe to Inland Water Terminal (IW Terminal) at Paletwa jetty via Kaladan river in Myanmar. This has been completed. The author is however advised that there is at least one lock gate enroute which increases traversing time. This route involves transhipment at Sittwe to IWT and then again at Paletwa through godowns into suitable trucks/container yards. In 2017, six IWT cargo vessels were handed over by india to Myanmar – these are meant to facilitate transportation of goods from Sittwe to Paletwa. The $81.29 mn cost of the vessels was met through a grant from India.

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  1. India starts construction of ₹1,600-cr Mizoram-Myanmar Kaladan road
  2. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/…/india…construction…myanmar…/article2357…

Apr 17, 2018

  • Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project – Wikipedia
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaladan_Multi-Modal_Transit_Transport_Project
  • Narendra Modi in Myanmar: Rohingya crisis, infrastructure projectshttps://www.firstpost.com/india/narendra-modi-in-myanmar-rohingya-crisis-infrastruc…

Sep 5, 2017

  • India starts construction of ₹1,600-cr Mizoram-Myanmar Kaladan road
  • https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/…/india…construction…myanmar…/article2357…

Apr 17, 2018

  • Why do China, India back Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis? | This …
  • www.scmp.com/week-asia/…/why-do-china-india-back-myanmar-over-rohingya-crisi…

Oct 18, 2017.

https://embassyofindiayangon.in/pages?id…subid…May 11, 2018

  • Map showing the Kaladan Project

Section 3 – By Road in Myanmar about 109 km – from IW Terminal Paletwa to Zorinpui at Indo-Myanmar border on the Mizoram border. Zorinpui has been opened as an immigration check post in Lawngtlai district since Oct 2017 – the ICP while approved is yet to be constructed and established. While Construction contract was awarded in June 2017, work will take a number of years to complete. While this was to be completed by 2019 the author is of the view that this would not be completed before 2022/23 or later, due to the major insurgency problem in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and extremely difficult terrain with virgin forest. It is understood that the GOI is also examining constructing a highway linking Paletwa with the AH1.

Section 4 – The Route then passes through South Mizoram in India, over a 100 km road from the Indo – Myanmar border at Zorinpui to Lawngtlai in Mizoram. From Lawngtlai it is connected to Aizawl – Saiha NH 54 at Lawngtlai in Mizoram in India, which then continues to Aizawl (249 kms) (Lawngtlai – Lunglei stretch in bad condition) and further to Silchar in Assam (174 kms) along NH 54 (in bad condition) or to Churachandpur via the NH 159 (in deplorable state) or onto the rest of the NER (none of which is really fit for taking very heavy vehicles or container traffic till conditions are improved). This route is all part of the larger East-West Corridor connecting NER with the rest of India. In the view of the author this may take three to four years if not longer to complete.

Sittwe Special Economic Zone (Sittwe SEZ) – the SEZ is being established at Ponnagyun town. The 1000 acre SEZ will be built 60 kilometres north from Sittwe upstream of Kaladan River at Ponnagyun town. China is also building a rival Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone and port which is around 80 kilometres south of Sittwe. The SEZ will facilitate trade inland into Myanmar as also setting up of industries.

Gas pipeline – There is also to a proposal to construct 1,575 km long Sittwe-Aizwal-Silchar-Guwahati-Siliguri-Gaya gas pipeline to transport gas from Sittwe gas field where ONGC and GAIL hold 30 percent stake in oil and gas exploration

Related Good Points and Problematic Issues that Need Resolution by GOI

This project will reduce distance from Kolkata to Mizoram and other parts of the NER substantially (over 1000 kms) and has been planned to reduce the need to transport good through the narrow Siliguri corridor, also known as Chicken’s Neck. In reality however, so many transhipments and the insurgency in Rakhine State will undoubtedly drive up costs manifold.

India had initially tried to persuade Bangladesh to offer transport and transit rights to the NER to its Chittagong port, which is close to Agartala, the capital of Tripura in India, which was consistently refused. It is for this reason amongst others that the Sittwe project was conceived. Bangladesh is now however amenable to do so including providing access by IWT to Akhaura River port which is very close to Agartala. The GOI needs to get this route developed as the same would be less complex than the Sittwe route.  However the Government of India would have to resolve Bangladeshi requests related to sharing of the River TEESTA as also be more rational in relation to the issues related to immigration, CAA and the NRC as Bangladesh is extremely agitated and indeed upset with India over the issue

The Kaladan project initially faced problems of underestimation of the road lengths and plans to construct hydro electric projects on the Chhimtuipui River and Lungleng River, two tributaries of the Kaladan River, followed by another project downstream. The first two projects are being built by one public sector undertaking (PSU) and the third by another PSU. This led to coordination issues and problems of navigation of boats – these issues appear to have now been at least partially resolved. 26,27,28,29.

Route Not Cost Effective for bulk trade – While there is little doubt that the Sittwe project will be of help for trade with Myanmar through the Sittwe SEZ and for strategic transportation of goods, gas or oil to the NER, it is unlikely to be cost effective as a regular route for transportation of goods to the NER due to probable high costs of transportation, caused by frequent bulk-breaking and transhipment. The insurgency problem also needs to be resolved by Myanmar before use of this route is acceptable to the private sector.38.

Upgradation of Mizoram Roads – In 2017, to ensure faster movement of goods between Sittwe and Aizawl, GOI has approved a INR 6,000-crore upgrade of the current 2 lane 300 km Aizawl-Tuipang NH to all weather four – laning of international standard, after the ongoing land acquisition is complete. This is a NH Authority of India project.9.

Ecological disaster – the author has personally witnessed 100m wide swathes of virgin forest over hundreds of kms, chopped down for these infrastructural developments all over the NER and Myanmar – i.e. thousands of sq km of forest denuded. No action has been taken to replant trees on the verges of roads constructed, which have led to land and mud slides and a change in climatic patterns – central and state governments must take immediate remedial action in this regard, if necessary by raising more ecological TA Battalions of the Army for this purpose.9,20.

Involvement of Local Population – the local population has not been adequately involved and as explained above, the locals demands some benefits for their states including setting up industry/value addition to goods transiting and adequate measures to ensure that they will not be flooded with outsiders leading to demographic change and despoiling of their customs and traditions. All this involves new industrial, labour, commerce policies and psychological tuning of religious institutions – particularly the church, civil society and society in general failing which we would have constructed roads but not achieved the desired development.9.

 Aizawl – Selling – Champhai – Zokhawthar (all in Mizoram) – Rhi – Tiddim – Kalewa (all in Myanmar linking to the Friendship Highway

India – Myanmar,Aizawl – Selling – Champhai – Zokhawthar – Rih – Tiddim Highway will provide a loop to the India – Myanmar – Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT), between Zokhawthar the Indian border village of Champhai district in east Mizoram on the NH 102B to Rihkwadar border town to Myanmar, connecting it to IMT 120 km away at Kalemyo via Tiddim. This loop for AH 1 is extremely essential as it bye passes the troubled areas of Manipur and Nagaland and runs totally through the peaceful state of Mizoram. It therefore counteracts many of the problem areas discussed above. While sanctioned, the work is yet to commence and therefore needs to be speeded up – most of it is existing roads (except Champhai – Zokhawthar which already under construction) which need widening, improvement and upgradation.

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Railway Projects Planned – Asian Railway – Delhi Hanoi Railway Link

Rail connectivity – India has initiated a preliminary survey to determine the feasibility of establishing a rail link parallel to the trilateral highway in January 2018. Japan has expressed interest in collaborating with India and funding the proposed rail link. The railway link planned to Myanmar must have an alternative routing through Mizoram due to the law and order situation in Manipur and Nagaland.

The Indian Railway has already converted the current 84 km railway line from Katakhal (Assam) to Bairabi 2 km inside Mizoram to broad gauge. Its further 51.38 km Bairabi – Sairang (20 km north of Aizwal)  railway extension in Mizoram is under construction with target completion date of March 2019. In August 2015, the India Railways completed a survey for a possible new route extension from Sairang to Hmawngbuchhuah on Mizoram’s southern tip on the border of Myanmar, near Zochachhuah village where the NH 502 (India) (part of Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project) enters Myanmar, leaving it open for future rail connections to Paletwa and Sittwe.

In the view of the author, the GOI would be well advised to also extend the under construction railway line from Bhairabi to Sairang (both in Mizoram) to Agartala as other projects are already afoot to link further onto Myanmar.

Some Industrial and Other Projects Being undertaken by Indian Companies in Myanmar

These have been deeply appreciated by Myanmar and are given below –

  • TCIL is currently establishing ADSL in Myanmar for high speed data links
  • OVL, GAIL and ESSAR are engaged in the energy sector
  • MoEP and NHPC are engaged in Hydro-Electric Power projects
  • TATA Motors has just set up a heavy turbo-truck assembly plant
  • RITES is assisting Myanmar in upgradation of is Rail transportation system
  • A series of Capacity Development Projects including an Industrial Training Centre, an English Language and Entrepreneurship Development Centre, a Centre for Enhancement of IT Skills, Erection of disaster proof rice silos and Upgradation of the Yangon Children’s Hospital and Sittwe General Hospital

Border Management of the Myanmar Border

Border Management of the 1450 km long Indo Myanmar border is a complex matter as it does not only involve control of the border crossings, with the paraphernalia of immigration control, customs, excise, narcotics and policing the check point. It also involves countering infiltration by insurgent groups who have sanctuaries in Myanmar, smugglers and illegal immigrants through heavily forested, difficult, hilly terrain of the NER which has no parallel on the rest of India’s borders. The fact that cross border trade by the locals with head loads by the local border tribes upto 16 kms on either side of the border is permitted and that the Myanmar Government is averse to fencing this border makes matters more complex. All this has led to official trade being negligible, while unofficial/illegal/customary trade and smuggling is extensive.9,17.

This will become even more complex when the routes such as the Tri Lateral and Kaladan Highways are through and a relatively free flow of traffic is demanded through proper ICPs – the large flow of traffic will make it easier for smuggling of arms, drugs (this is after all the ‘Golden Triangle’ region), precious stone and other valuable products. What will be an even greater challenge, though indirectly connected with border management, is keeping the AH 1 free of abduction, kidnapping, extortion and road blocks by either insurgents or due to law and order problems. All this would require good actionable intelligence and quick and effective reaction by reserves. Close coordination would be required with the Myanmar Army who are on the other side to curtail similar activities there.19,20.

There would be an urgent requirement of, besides establishing a single window system of clearance, uninterrupted power supply and excellent digital communications – both of which are currently poor.

This aspect may be closed with a comment that proper Border Management would a Game Changer to the entire process of the Act East Policy.

Conclusion

            This article has outlined the major infrastructure projects that India has taken up in Myanmar to facilitate both the Act East Policy of the GOI and speedier development of the NER. Whether these projects will be catalyst for change or not depends totally on the main players in this process. To be such catalysts the problem areas highlighted above must be resolved on the highest priority and the positive points improved upon further.             Notwithstanding all the above, the most recent COVID 19 Pandemic has brought all development work in the above regard in the NER of India, Myanmar and Thailand to a total halt. The author is of the view that this would be a major constraint in completion of all these infrastructure projects in the region for some time to come.

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