Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has said that work on a highway to link India with Myanmar and Thailand should start soon. This is welcome. But the government has to be more ambitious.
The proposed Highway, starting from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand, will pass through Myanmar. It should also turn northwards and connect with Kunming, the biggest city of the province of Yunnan in China.
China is already working on ambitious highway-building projects linking coastal Myanmar to Yunnan and it makes great sense to link the highway from India with this. That way, trade would open up between eastern India all the way to landlocked southern China, Myanmar and Thailand. India should also negotiate with Bangladesh for this highway to pass through its territory.
That way, instead of terminating traffic and commerce in the northeast, the highway could run all the way to Kolkata. Once there, it would be easy to link the East-West Corridor with the India-Myanmar-China-Thailand highway.
Immense trade potential could open up if, say, Pune is connected to Kunming via one long, continuous highway. Along the way, goods can also be dropped off in markets in Bangladesh, the north-east, Myanmar and on to Thailand.
Southern Asia is among the world’s least-integrated regions. It was not always thus. Before Partition, south and south-east Asia was a closely networked hub of commerce and services. In the 1930s, the British built a road between Burma and southern China.
During WWII, American general Joe Stilwell built another one from Ledo in Assam to Kunming, to supply Chinese fighting the Japanese. The Stilwell road, too, should be revived, repaired and used extensively to boost trade and commerce between India, China and south-east Asia.
My Comment: Myanmar had recently constructed Yangon to Mandalay Expressway via Naypyidaw. This Expressway if extended will link Kunming in China. From this two routes will take-off towards India –
1. Kyauktaw to Rakhaine state where two-lane bridge was built “The Kispanadi Bridge” over River Kaladan is located at the entrance to Kyauktaw Town to further go through Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh and further to Kolkata in India.
2. Mandalay to Aizawl to Agartala in India to Dhaka and then to Kolkata.