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In a very strategic manner the visit of Indian Army Chief M.M. Naravane and foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringlais bringing a very affirming development for not only India but for Myanmar as well. 

Since, the prominent decision making body in Myanmar is still its Army therefore the Army Chief’s visit along with foreign secretary had several is a unique one in itself which is enabling the India’s Army chief directly to Myanmar’s decision making body however in the today visit both the representatives also hold meeting with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Operationalization of Sittwe port-

During the visit of the Indian army chief and foreign secretary to Myanmar, The two countries agreed to work towards operationalising the Sittwe port in the

first quarter of 2021.

According to a press release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Monday, The ongoing India-assisted infrastructure projects such as the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project and trilateral highway were part of the bilateral discussions.They agreed to work towards operationalization of Sittwe Port in the Rakhine State in the first quarter of 2021.

Sittwe part is part of the Kaladan multimodal transit transport project, which is crucial to India’s plans for the landlocked northeastern states to access the Bay of Bengal through mizoram, right now besides this route the chicken neck in arunachal Pradesh transit route and also connect the states of extreme North East to the rest of India. Thus the port route via Myanmar will provide direct access to Kolkata for the North East besides the long Siliguri circuit.

Kaladan multi-modal transport project and its importance-

In 2010, India began work on the mega infrastructure project in Myanmar, which had several components.This project would not only link India’s north east to the southeast region,But also allow for goods to be transported from Kolkata to Sittwe and then onwards by river and roads to Mizoram. 

This project will reduce distance from Kolkata to Sittwe by approximately 1328 km.It will also reduce the need to transport good through the narrow Siliguri corridor.One of the key aspects was the construction of an integrated port and Inland Waterway Transport terminal at Sittwe.It was completed in 2018 at a cost of Rs 517.29 crore but due to a number of reasons including the Arakan Army’s disgrace barred the progress.

In December 2017, India and Myanmar entered a 

Memorandum of Understanding on the Rakhine State Development Programme, which provided an annual grant-in-aid of $5 million. Both sides noted the considerable progress made under the Rakhine State Development Programme (RSDP).

Complications in operation & the solution-

The prominent hurdle between the operationalization of the transit route is the conflict between Myanmar and Arakan Army. India had signed an agreement with the Myanmar government for operationalising the port in October 2018. But, conflict between the insurgent group Arakan Army 

and the Myanmar military had impacted the operationalisation.According to a local NGO, more than 226,000 people have been displaced inside the province due to the violence.

Last year, the Arakan Army had specifically targeted the Kaladan project, abducting Indian workers and officials. Thus, In early 2019, Indian and Myanmar military had conducted a coordinated operation,To avert an alleged threat from Arakan Army against the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project to sort out the blockages. The last leg of the Kaladan project is a road from Chin state’s Paletwa in Myanmar to Mizoram, which is still under construction.

India aiming Bangladesh along with Myanmar-

India’s strategy has been to emphasise the socio-economic development of Rakhine province, so that there is enough economic incentive for the refugees to return and to ameliorate the ethnic conflict. 

It is also part of India’s foreign policy to walk a balanced path between Myanmar and Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.Bangladesh has been pushing for an early repatriation of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas. Thus India is aiming Bangladesh collectively with the visit.

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