New Delhi: – Sittwe Port in Myanmar, also called the ‘Chabahar of the East’, built by India, will become operational between January and March, next year. Despite the Coronavirus crisis, India will be completing the work before schedule. India will also be operating the port. The development of Sittwe Port by India is a part of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Project, and this will make another alternative route available for India to connect with the north-eastern states. This will reduce the dependency on the Siliguri Corridor. Against this background, the importance of completion of the Sittwe Port before schedule increases further.
Bilateral talks were held between India and Myanmar on Thursday. Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla led the Indian delegation, and the Myanmar delegation was led by U Soe Han, Permanent Secretary, during the virtual meeting held via videoconferencing. Discussions were held regarding relations in trade, investment, energy and health sectors. The projects being developed under the Kaladan Multi-Modal Project were also reviewed. During the meeting, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla announced some schemes related to the Indian investments, in Myanmar, under the Neighbour First and Act East policies. One of them was Sittwe Port development.
Following the discussions, the decision was taken to activate the Sittwe Port in the first quarter of the next year. It is reported that it is also agreed to give this port to India for operations. A decision to invite tenders for 69 bridges, to be built on the Tripartite Highway, connecting India, Myanmar and Thailand. Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla made an announcement regarding this too. This becomes clear from the projects being built in Myanmar, by India, that despite the Chinese influence over Myanmar, India is able to strengthen the strategic ties with this country.
India provided financial assistance of USD 1.4 billion to Myanmar for development of Sittwe Port. The development of Sittwe Port will reduce the dependence on the Siliguri Corridor in Sikkim and West Bengal. Siliguri Corridor is a narrow strip connecting the north-eastern states to the rest of India, and if this corridor is closed during a conflict with China, India will have an alternative route available to connect to the north-eastern states. It will be possible to reach Kolkata from north-eastern India.
Currently, to reach Mizoram from Kolkata, one has to travel 1,880 kilometres. But the distance between the Sittwe Port and N54 highway in Mizoram is only 140 kilometres. Therefore, by taking the sea route to Sittwe and then travelling to Mizoram, the distance will reduce by more than half. This underlines the strategic importance of the development of the port by India in Myanmar.