India Intelligence Report

   India to Pay Myanmar for Port



  • India is negotiating an aid package to Myanmar to gain access to Sittwe port

  • Sittwe will give access to Northeastern states

  • Bangladesh is not cooperating on road, rail, port access

Vexed with Bangladesh’s recalcitrant attitude to deny land, sea, and rail access to North Eastern India from the mainland, India is offering Myanmar money and sops to open a sea and river trade route. Reports say that the aid of USD 103 million (Rs 475 crores) is meant to help Yangon develop its Sittwe port on the Bay of Bengal and make a river connecting Mizoram and Myanmar navigable for cargo.

Federal Minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh said “The future of (the) Northeast lies in bypassing Bangladesh. Sittwe will be the gateway for these states.” According to the government-owned engineering consultant and project manager RITES the plan is to ferry goods from Sittwe northwards along the river Kaladan to Mizoram which is less than 200 km away. Ramesh estimates that the project would take three years to finish from its date of launch and also revealed that Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran “is in Yangon” to negotiate the deal.

Ramesh said that it had offered large packages to Bangladesh but Dhaka’s lack of providing transit for Northeast-bound cargo scuttled these measures. India has been requesting Bangladesh to allow double-entry visa for individuals and rail and road transit for goods to ease movement between the Northeast and the rest of the country. India had also proposed that the Chittagong port be developed as the gateway to the northeastern states.

The nearest available ports for the seven northeastern states are Calcutta and Haldia which would mean long truck rides through difficult hilly terrain. One of the major obstacles for the economic development of the Northeast is the lack of access. Sittwe gives the region the necessary access from Calcutta, Visakhapatanam, or Chennai.

India also wants to acquire two offshore blocks in Myanmar to access natural gas and transit it through a pipeline to the Northeast but the project has been delayed because Bangladesh, through which the proposed pipeline must pass, has raised obstacles. New Delhi is now working on alternative arrangements.

India is also aware of the precariousness of the situation and is working urgently as China has already proposed a plan to lay a pipeline Sittwe to Kunmin, the capital of China’s Yunnan province.

Saran’s visit to Myanmar builds on President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s visit to that country in March this year.