For India, it could prove to be the reopening of the famed ‘Road to Mandalay’. The proposed India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, part of which entails linking India to Myanmar and then further to Southeast Asia, is a strategic project that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken up as priority.
The progress on the proposed infra link came up for discussion at the PM’s meeting with his Thai counterpart Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asean summit meeting. “The PM is very keen that the infrastructure connection is completed soon,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said on Thursday evening.
A strong push for the completion of the 3,200-km trilateral highway, which could drastically enhance the connectivity between the Mekong sub-region and India and prove to be a game-changer for India’s northeast region, is an important component in the government’s plans to ramp up its “Look East” policy to the newly coined “Act East” policy. The link is expected to be ready by 2018, about two years behind schedule.
The highway project, which is to run from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Mandalay in Myanmar, will ensure that India’s eastern border is opened to a new bus route from Imphal to Mandalay, which would enable travellers to board a bus from Manipur’s capital to reach Mandalay in just over 14 hours. The trilateral highway project, along with the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport model, is one of the cornerstones of the new government’s “Act East” plan.
The Kaladan project, when implemented, will connect Kolkata to Sittwe port in Myanmar, and then further to Mizoram by river and road. India and Myanmar had signed a framework agreement in 2008 for its implementation. The construction of a critical section of a ‘port-cum-inland waterway’ Sittwe port with India is about three-quarters complete and is likely to be wrapped up by April. The project is of critical economic and strategic importance to India.