In a development that is aimed at stopping China’s growing influence in the region, India is expediting the infrastructure projects in Myanmar/Burma after years of tardiness in project implementation. According to reports, India has completed building the Sittwe power and the inland water terminal in Paletwa, a town in Myanmar.
India had missed several deadlines earlier and it was threatening to ruin the reputation of India vis a vis China. Now India is looking forward to complete the final stage of the project, which is a 109-km road connecting the Burmese town to Indian border. The road construction is expected to start in October.
“We have just awarded the contract for the final stage which is the road to be built from Paletwa to a point called Zorinpui which is on the border with Mizoram. The creation of this transport corridor, once it is fully functioning, has the potential to transform the economic landscape in the states through which it goes, Rakhine and Chin,” Indian envoy to Myanmar Vikram Misri was quoted as saying.
India is also building the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway. Work for the trilateral highway, which was originally targeted for 2014, is scheduled to be completed by 2020.
“We are repairing 69 bridges on the Tamu-Kalay road and also constructing the Kalaywa-Yagyi section of the highway. In Chin State, which borders Mizoram in India, we are constructing a road that will connect Rhi on the border to the town of Tiddim,” the Indian envoy to Myanmar said.
It could be noted that Beijing is investing heavily in Myanmar. China’s belt and road project has seen an almost $10 billion investment in Kyaukphyu port in western Myanmar. But despite all these, there remains distrust between the two countries.
But in sharp contrast to their relationship with China, Myanmar looks up to India as a long-time friend. India has extended over $1.75 billion grants to Myanmar. Myanmar features prominently in India’s Act East policy as India tries to balance out Beijing’s massive presence there.
India is the largest market for Burmese exports. India’s exports to Burma stands at $100-150 million million.
India has a long historical relationship with Myanmar since ancient times. Buddhism, which was originated in India, has tremendously influenced Burmese society and culture for millennia with 90 per cent continuing to follow the religion. Burmese script is based on Indian Grantha script.