India funds three-nation road
$500-million loan from New Delhi to help build 3,200km highway through Myanmar and linking to ThailandIndia, one of Asean's six partner countries, has granted a US$500-million (Bt15.7-billion) loan to Myanmar, part of which will be used to finance construction of a 3,200-km trilateral highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand, according to the Indian ambassador to Bangkok.
In an interview with The Nation, Anil Wadhwa said New Delhi would also host an Indian-Asean Summit from December 19 to 22 this year to mark the 20th anniversary of India's relations with the 10-country regional group.
During the summit - which will be attended by most Asean leaders, including Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra - India's connectivity with other Asean countries via roads, rail and other forms of transportation would be at the top of the agenda, the envoy said.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently visited Myanmar and extended the credit line to his counterpart, of which about $100 million is earmarked for roads inside Myanmar as part of the trilateral highway.
The 3,200km route will run from India's northeastern states into Myanmar, where over 1,600km of roads will be built or improved. Other sources of funds include the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
"This will connect India with Myanmar all the way down to Mandalay. After that, we will connect with a place where the Thai authorities are building a highway, which is 63km from the Thai border into Myanmar," the ambassador said.
"The trilateral highway project will allow freight and container trucks to move across the borders from India to Myanmar and Thailand via Chiang Rai and border towns.
"It will play a crucial role in boosting trade and investment flows in the three countries, creating jobs and other benefits, he said.
"We expect this to benefit India's northeastern region as well, as four of our states are on the
border with Myanmar, especially if there is connectivity to ports like the planned Dawei deep-sea port and industrial estate in Myanmar," Wadhwa said.
The envoy said India had adopted a "Look East" policy to boost its economic ties with Asean, which has six partner countries, namely, China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The trilateral highway will form the so-called East-West economic corridor linking India with Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
In addition, there is also a North-South corridor linking southern China with the rest of mainland Southeast Asia from Myanmar and Thailand all the way down to Malaysia and Singapore.
According to the Indian ambassador to Bangkok, "the feasibility study on the trilateral highway is complete".
However, there have been some changes on the routing in Myanmar to avoid hills and valleys.
"Construction work has started as we also aim to improve the existing roads and bridges. This project should be completed by 2016," he said.
The Indian government plans to hold a series of events to promote this project, including a cross-border India-Asean rally planned for later this year to pass through several Asean countries, including Thailand - twice - and then connect to Myanmar and India. "This will help test the routing. Even today, we can drive up all the way to India, but we need a highway that can take container traffic to allow movement of goods.
"The rally will take place in November and December, passing through Phuket and Bangkok, where we will also hold an Indian food festival and other cultural events," the ambassador said.
"We will also hold business seminars in Bangkok with the theme of focusing on business opportunities in the northeast of India in connection with Thailand. There will be similar events in Myanmar and other Asean countries totalling 50 during that period," he said.