The truce between the Myanmar junta and rebel groups paves the way for the revival of the Indian project Connection essential to counter China | Popgen Tech


A truce between Myanmar’s military junta and (AA) paved the way for the revival.

This project is central to India’s ‘Act East’ policy and New Delhi’s counter to China (BRI).

The Kaladan project will provide a direct route from Kolkata to Mizoram via Myanmar via sea, river and land routes. It will facilitate easier, faster and cheaper transportation of goods from Kolkata, Haldia and other ports like Paradip on India’s eastern seaboard to Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and southeast Assam.

But hostilities between the junta and the AA have resulted in suspension of work on the ambitious project in some places since Myanmar’s military (known as the ‘Tatmadaw’) seized power in a coup early last year.

AA also targeted the Indian-sponsored project by trying to extort large sums of money from contractors carrying out the work, kidnapping site personnel for ransom and even physically stopping their work.

New Delhi suspected a Chinese hand behind the AA’s actions (it). That’s because the AA, which was fighting for greater autonomy for the Arakan people in Myanmar’s Rakhine province, has very close ties to the (KIA) which is considered a substitute for China.

The Indian Army and Tatmadaw have, in the past, launched coordinated operations on both sides of the border to target AA rebels as well as North-Eastern outfit militants sheltered in western Myanmar.

But the AA has been resilient and since the coup in that country last year, has consolidated its position in Rakhine state. He put his own administrative machinery and judiciary in place and ruled, for all practical purposes, the state of Rakhine that borders Bangladesh to his northwest.

The AA is also very influential and controls large parts of the neighboring Chin state bordering Mizoram.

In the past, AA raided Kaladan project construction sites in Chin and Rakhine states and destroyed valuable equipment.

In November 2019, the rebel team kidnapped six American construction workers and engineers from a project site. India got their release later.

The late November ceasefire between the military junta and the AA, brokered by president Yohei Sasakowa, comes after months of intense hostilities between the junta and the AA.

The Sesepel is an immediate benefit to India since work can resume on the billion dollar project right away. It is understood that the AA has given an undertaking not to disrupt the project any further and allow work to continue.

Immediately after the ceasefire, Indian consul Jay Krishna met the junta-appointed Chief Minister of Rakhine state, Dr. Aung Kyaw Min, for talks on resuming work on the Kaladan project.

At the December 2 meeting, the two parties discussed the official opening of the Sittwe port and the river route across the Kaladan River from Sittwe and Kyauktaw to Paletwa in Chin State.

The two sides also discussed modalities for resuming work on an incomplete section of the 109-km dual-lane, all-weather highway from Paletwa to Zorinpui (Mizoram) on the Indo-Myanmar border.

Rakhine state authorities have reportedly assured full support for the resumption of construction work. They also got a commitment from the AA leadership that the rebel team will cooperate in the early completion of the project which will bring immense benefits to Rakhine and Chin provinces.

India is pushing the military junta to reach an agreement with AA so that work on the Kaladan project can resume.

On November 21, India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra met with the head of junta Min Aung Hlaing in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, and discussed measures to be taken for the rapid implementation of the project.

Project Kaladan:

The first component of the Kaladan project–the 539-kilometer sea route from Kolkata to the Indian-improved port of Sittwe–is already operational.

The next part of the multi-modal project involves the 158 kilometer road from the Sittwe sea port through the Kaladan river to the Paletwa river port. India has built a hydro-electric plant in Paletwa, dredging the Kaladan River and building a jetty there.

A special economic zone in the town of Ponnagyun, 60 kilometers north of Paletwa on the Kaladan river, is being developed by India. This is being projected as an exclusive export-oriented zone that is expected to draw investments from India and other countries.

The final component of the Kaladan project is the 109 km highway from Paletwa to Zorinpui in Mizoram on the India-Myanmar border.

It is this part of the project that has been mired in delays, thanks to AA’s demands on contractors working on this road. Another way to connect the Paletwa is on the maps.

The whole project is very important for India’s ‘Act East’ policy aimed at seamless connectivity between India and across the northeast and Bangladesh land mass to Southeast Asia.

Once completed, this project will strengthen the stagnant economy of northeast India and open markets in Southeast Asia to goods and products from the northeast.

According to sources in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), work on the project is expected to resume in early January. All sea+river+land routes can be operational before the middle of next year.

This grand project was initiated 12 years ago but there was little movement on the ground until Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister and started taking a personal interest in its implementation. Work on this project continued at a snail’s pace under the previous UPA regime and it picked up speed only after 2014.

The Kaladan project will also be a big boost for India’s image on the global stage.


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