13 Oct 2020 - Source: JAGRAN Josh
India and Myanmar agreed to work towards the operationalization of Strategic Sittwe Port in the first quarter of 2021.
Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla travelled to Mayanmar on a two-day visit. They also called on State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar's Commander in Chief of Defence Services.
- Amid the unprecedented pandemic, the Indian delegation presented a package of 3,000 vials of the antiviral Remdesivir to help Myanmar in its fight against COVID-19.
- Mayanmar has been prioritised by India in sharing the vaccines for COVID-19, whenever available.
- The operationalization of Sittwe Port in the first quarter of 2021 is promised. This will connect India's Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and Myanmar's Kaladan river to India's north-east region.
- The progress on India-assisted infrastructural projects (India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project) were discussed.
- Both the countries stressed over the security of their border areas and agreed to maintain peace and stability. This is because India is concerned over some militant groups which are active in the North-East region and are taking shelter in Myanmar. In May 2020, Myanmar handed over 22 cadres of Indian insurgent groups to India.
- India announced a grant of $2 Million for the construction of the border haat bridge at Byanyu/Sarsichauk in Chin State. This strategic haat will enhance economic activity between Mizoram and Myanmar.
- The Rohingya issues were also taken into consideration with Indian delegation ensuring the safe, sustainable and speedy return of Rohingya refugees from refugees camps of Bangladesh.
- India will also be establishing its embassy in Nay Pyi Taw after the formal inauguration of a liaison office in Nay Pyi Taw. India already has its embassy in Yangon.
- In addition to these, India will also import 1.5 lakh tonnes of Urad from Myanmar till March 31, 2021.
Sittwe port: Strategic Importance and Key Benefits
- The port is situated at the mouth of Kaladan river and is financed by India as a part the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which is a collaboration between India and Myanmar.
- It is a deep underwater port on the Bay of Bengal and will enhance the transport infrastructure between southwestern Myanmar and north-eastern India.
- After its operationalization, the goods can be transported from Kolkata to Sittwe port and then to Mizoram.
- The Kaladan Project will provide an alternative route to North-East India with the rest of the country. Currently, the narrow Siliguri Corridor provides access to the seven North-East states of India.
- With the operationalization of this alternative route, the transportation delays and cost overheads will be reduced significantly.
Kaladan Multi-modal Project: Strategic Importance and Key Benefits
- In 2010, India started working on a mega infrastructural project in Myanmar. The aim was to construct an integrated port and waterway transport terminal at Sittwe.
- This construction was completed in the year 2018 at the cost of Rs. 517.29 crores.
- The project reduced the distance between Kolkata to Sittwe by around 1,328 km.It also reduced the need to
- transport goods via narrow Siliguri corridor.
- An agreement was signed between India and Myanmar for the operationalization of the port in October 2018. However, promised operationalization was hindered due to the conflict between the Myanmar military and the insurgent group Arakan Army.
- As per a local NGO, around 226,000 people have been displaced due to this conflict.
- In 2019, the insurgent group Arakan Army targetted the Kaladan project by abducting officials and Indian workers. This resulted in a coordinated operation by Indian and Myanmar military to avert alleged threats from the insurgent group against the project.
- Bangladesh has been pushing for early repatriation of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas. Thus, Indian delegation took this into consideration and assured safe, sustainable and speedy return of Rohingya refugees from refugees camps of Bangladesh.
- India has laid emphasis on the socio-economic development of the Rakhine province to create enough economic incentive for refugees who will return from the camps.
- In December 2017, India and Myanmar signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) on the Rakhine State Development Programme. This provided an annual grant in aid of $ 5 million.
- Both the countries noted significant progress under the Rakhine State Development Programme (RSDP) and India has proposed to finalise the projects pending under phase-III of the programme. This includes setting up a skills training centre, up-gradation of agricultural mechanisation, etc.