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Myanmar seeks time to sign vehicle pact as India speed up highway to Thailand

New Delhi is keen on making progress in the 1,360km IMT highway that could eventually extend up to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as a showpiece connectivity project of the region.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2018 22:31 IST
Jayanth Jacob & Moushumi Das Gupta
Jayanth Jacob & Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Myanmar,India-Myanmar ties,India-Myanmar-Thailand highway
A plaque signifying the contribution of India in the restoration of the Ananda Temple, in Bagan, Myanmar.(PTI File Photo)

Myanmar sought time to review the implementation of connectivity arrangements in the region before proceeding with a motor vehicle agreement to operationalise the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highway that New Delhi wants to speed up, officials familiar with the developments said.

Ahead of the India-Asean Commemorative summit later this month, New Delhi is keen on making progress in the 1,360km IMT highway that could eventually extend up to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as a showpiece connectivity project of the region.

The way Myanmar figures in China’s One Belt, One Road project has lent a sense of urgency to the project, the idea for which was first floated in 2003. It missed the 2015 deadline and may now miss the 2020 one, too.

“The three countries (India, Myanmar and Thailand) are negotiating a motor vehicle agreement. An inter-ministerial meeting reviewed the progress of the project last month. Myanmar informed India it would want to study and do a thorough review of the connectivity arrangements it has with other countries and in the region before proceeding with the agreement,” an official said on the condition of anonymity, adding that it was an “understandable position”.

Another official said, “Eventually, as it happens in some cases, we could also explore the possibility of whether we need a bilateral or a trilateral motor vehicle agreement.”

The development comes in the background of several sub-regional connectivity projects — such as the BBIN (Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal) — that were stalled in the region. BBIN was touted as an alternative after Pakistan stalled a motor vehicle agreement among Saarc countries.

The government, meanwhile, has decided to speed up the IMT. A joint venture between Punj Lloyd and Varaha has been given the contract to upgrade a 120.74km road on the Kalewa-Yargi section in Myanmar.

Some experts believe India’s slow pace in completing such projects inspires little confidence among other countries. “We have been lax. The government is expediting many projects now. Early or timely completion of projects will inspire confidence,” said professor Sachin Chaturvedi, director general at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a New Delhi-based think tank.

First Published: Jan 06, 2018 22:30 IST