Even as Myanmar is having some concerns on signing a motor vehicle agreement to facilitate better connectivity on the proposed India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) trilateral highway, India and Thailand are hoping to overcome the challenges to ensure early completion of the flagship road for connecting South-East Asia. The highway will facilitate easy movement of goods and people among the three countries.
“Thailand remains committed to the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Transport Linkage Project (Trilateral Highway Project) and looks forward to its timely completion. Once completed, greater flows of trade and investment will take place along the route, stimulating the movement of goods and people, creating jobs, promoting tourism as well as raising the livelihoods of the peoples in the region,” a senior official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand told The Indian Express.
In its report on trade with ASEAN released in December, 2017, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce noted that the IMT is crucial move but the Government of Myanmar is not keen on signing proposed India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Vehicle agreement and taking it forward. The Committee recommended the Indian government to impress upon Myanmar for signing the agreement at the earliest arguing that any delay in executing the agreement would be a setback in establishing connectivity between the three countries.
The official with the Thailand’s foreign ministry said the transport corridor can be turned into an economic corridor over time but that would require common regulations. “In this light, software harmonisation i.e. rules and regulations for a seamless cross-border flow is needed to complement the physical connectivity,” the official said.
India is keen to move fast on the 1,360-kilometer-long IMT highway, which will Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand through Tamu, Kalewa, Yargi, Monywa, Mandalay, Baw Nat Gyi, Kawkareik and Myawaddy in Myanmar. India has committed to implement two projects on the IMT Trilateral Highway — construction of 69 bridges on 150 km Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa section, and upgradation of 120 km road on Kalewa-Yargi section in Myanmar.
The National Highways Authority of India has been appointed as the technical executing agency and project management consultant for implementing this project. India is upgrading the Kalewa-Yargi road section under grant assistance Myanmar and the estimated cost of the project is Rs 1,177.02 crore. The work for this particular section was awarded in December 2017 by NHAI, while the work for 69 bridges was awarded in September 2017.
Myanmar has earlier conveyed to India that it would proceed with the proposed motor vehicle agreement after comprehensively reviewing the implementation of similar arrangements it has with other countries. In its report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee has also recommended extending the IMT Highway to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam as that would be beneficial in facilitating trade and promoting production networks.