India and Myanmar inked MoU for appointment of private port operator for Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of Sittwe Port, Paletwa Inland Water Terminal and associated facilities included in Kaladan Multi Model Transit Transport Project. The MoU was signed Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on behalf of Government of India (GoI) and by U Win Khant, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport and Communications on behalf of Myanmar Government.
Sittwe port in Myanmar will connect India’s landlocked north-east region to Bay of Bengal through Mizoram. It will also provide alternate route to Kolkata. Following this MoU, process of identifying bidders to maintain these facilities will be initiated by floating Request for proposal (RFP). Subsequent to commencement of operations at this port, it will offer new infrastructure for trade including between India and Myanmar. It is also significant step in implementation of India’s Act East Policy as it will boost connectivity, contributing to job creation and development in whole region, particularly in Myanmar’s strife-torn Rakhine and Chin States.
Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project
This project aims to connect seaport of Kolkata (India) with Sittwe seaport in Myanmar by sea; it will then link Sittwe seaport to Lashio in Myanmar via Kaladan river boat route and then from Lashio to Mizoram in India by road transport. This project will reduce distance from Kolkata to Mizoram by approximately 1000 km and cut travelling time to 3-4 days for transport of goods. It will provide alternative to current route from North East to Kolkata port via chicken neck which faces heavy traffic and transportation of cargo via this route takes many days to reach port.
Benefits to India
It will provide alternative route to India to ship goods to the landlocked north-eastern States as it will provide access to the sea to landlocked northeastern states via Myanmar. It will significantly lower cost and distance of movement from Kolkata to Mizoram and beyond. It will also reduce dependency on only route narrow strip dubbed as Chicken’s Neck in West Bengal, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. It will be also instrumental for India’s Act-east policy and strengthen India’s trade and transport links with Southeast Asia. It will not only serve economic, commercial and strategic interest of India but also contributes to development of Myanmar and its economic integration with India.