India, Myanmar working to operationalise Sittwe port in early 2021

Sittwe port is part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project, which is crucial to India’s plans for the landlocked northeastern states to access the Bay of Bengal through Mizoram and to provide alternative connectivity to Kolkata without having to use the circuitous Siliguri corridor.
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla at the India-Myanmar Foreign Office Consultations on Oct 1, 2020. (Photo @harshvshringla)
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla at the India-Myanmar Foreign Office Consultations on Oct 1, 2020. (Photo @harshvshringla)
Updated on Oct 01, 2020 09:59 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

India and Myanmar are working to operationalise Sittwe port by the first quarter of 2021 while the tendering process for 69 bridges for the trilateral highway involving Thailand will begin soon, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said on Thursday.

Shringla made the remarks while co-chairing the India-Myanmar foreign office consultations with permanent secretary U Soe Han. India’s assistance to Myanmar currently stands at $1.4 billion, and New Delhi will provide debt service relief under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative to Myanmar from May to December to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Despite the challenges caused by the Covid pandemic, we are working towards operationalising the Sittwe port by the first quarter of next year. With respect to the 69 bridges on the trilateral highway, I am happy to inform you that we will soon be moving forward with the tendering process,” Shringla said.

Sittwe port is part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project, which is crucial to India’s plans for the landlocked northeastern states to access the Bay of Bengal through Mizoram and to provide alternative connectivity to Kolkata without having to use the circuitous Siliguri corridor.

Once the port is operationalised through a private operator, Indian goods can be taken via the Aizawl-Zorinpui-Palletwa axis to Kaladan river, and then transferred to Sittwe port.

The India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway has been held up due to problems associated with the stretch in Myanmar and the construction of the bridges is expected to speed up work on the project.

Shringla described security cooperation between the two countries as robust and said both sides were sensitive to each other’s security concerns. Myanmar’s handing over of 22 Indian insurgents was “deeply appreciated” by India as it sent a “strong message of deterrence to inimical elements on both sides”, he said.

He requested Myanmar for the early conclusion of an extradition treaty, a mutual legal assistance treaty on civil and commercial matters, and an agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons.

As part of defence cooperation, an Indian team for deployment of meteorological squadrons will travel to Myanmar this month, and India will receive Myanmar’s representative at its maritime Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean.

Shringla also assured the Myanmar side that India is committed to sharing its capabilities for a Covid-19 vaccine with its strategic partners. The two sides also discussed ways to mitigate the pandemic’s impact, including supply of medicines, equipment and technology.

The consultations, which were held virtually, reviewed overall bilateral ties, including border cooperation and upgrade of border infrastructure, the status of India’s development projects, trade and investment, and cultural cooperation, including the restoration of earthquake-damaged pagodas in Bagan.

With the Joint Trade Committee’s next ministerial meeting to be held on October 20, Shringla said India is also looking forward to enhancing cooperation in the energy sector. Myanmar, with an energy portfolio of more than $1.2 billion, is the largest destination for Indian investments in oil and gas in Southeast Asia.

The situation in Rakhine state also figured in the discussions. India recently entered into trilateral cooperation with Japan in Rakhine, under which it will create infrastructure for 15 schools. “Our efforts towards ensuring an early, safe and sustainable repatriation of internally displaced persons to Myanmar will continue,” Shringla said.

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Thursday, December 09, 2021