Japan is keen to fund two more road projects in India’s northeast, a priority area for the Narendra Modi government both in terms of domestic politics and strategic reasons.
The Japanese government, which has pledged Rs 67.1 billion to improve roads in the region, is looking at national highways 40 and 55 that provide vital links to Bangladesh and Myanmar, the only southeast Asian country India shares a land boundary with.
Strategically important N-E states also have reserves of a variety of natural resources. Connectivity, however, remains a problem and Japan is helping India bridge that gap.
A network of roads linked to waterways has the potential to turn the region into a busy trade route and give it the much-needed economic push.
“Prime Minister Shizo Abe has expressed Japan’s intention to provide loans for road connectivity in the Northeast that will also boost regional connectivity …,” a spokesperson for the Japan International Cooperaton Agency (Jica) told HT.
The final funding details are being drawn for the slope protection of the Siliguri-Darjeeling stretch, which is prone to landslides, of national highway (NH) 55.
Japan will also lend a hand in improving NH 40 that connects Shillong to Dawki in Meghalaya close to the Bangladesh border.
The bilateral cooperation with Japan in infrastructure projects in the Northeast, an area out of bounds for Chinese investors for political reasons, has been stepped up of late.
It also comes at a time when Beijing is pumping in money to boost infrastructure in the neighbouring country.
Soon after Abe’s India visit in December, Jica pledged around Rs 7,000 crore for two highways projects in Mizoram and Meghalaya.
The first is the upgrade of 350-km stretch between Aizwal and Tuipang in Mizoram. The section, which passes through a rolling terrain and needs constant maintenance, is a part of the Kaladan multi-modal transportation corridor that will bring the region closer to Myanmar through sea, river and road links.
A sea route is planned between Kolkata and Sittwe in Myanmar that will help movement of goods. From Sittwe, the waterway will go up to Paletwa in western Myanmar. A road link will then connect the Myanmarese town to Mizoram.
The second project is the improvement of the Tura-Dalu section of NH 51 in Meghalaya that runs up to the Bangladesh border.
“Projects helping regional connectivity would bring better economic growth to the region,” the JICA official said.