India and Myanmar have agreed to proceed with the Sittwe port project in Rakhine. The total cost of the project proposed by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs is approximately the 480 million. Myanmar-based news outlet Irawati said the joint port would open next year. If this project goes into effect, the time it takes to bring goods from both countries will be reduced. Also, it will be possible for India to deal with Chinese influence within the Bay of Bengal and within Myanmar.
A delegation led by Indian Army Chief MM Narwane and Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla visited Myanmar last Sunday and Monday. During the visit, Indian officials met with Myanmar state advisor Aung San Suu Kyi, commander-in-chief of the defense service, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and other high-ranking officials.
In a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, the two sides agreed to go ahead with the opening of the port of Sittwe in Rakhine State within the first three months of 2021, according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry of India. The statement also said that Myanmar and India also discussed the progress of several infrastructure projects, including the Delhi-backed tripartite highway.
According to a structural agreement signed in Myanmar in 2006, the Kaladan project will connect the port of Sitawe via Paleto to the Kaladan River and connect Paleto by road to Aizawl, the state capital of Mizoram. The project covers 156 km of the Kaladan River in the interior of Myanmar and 109 km of road from Paleto to Jiranpui along the Indo-Myanmar border in the state of Mizoram.
If this project goes into effect, the travel distance from Kolkata to Sittwe will be reduced by about one thousand 328 kilometers. This will reduce the time it takes to bring goods to and from the two ports using the Siliguri Corridor, now known as ‘Chicken Neck’.
Delhi’s strategic goal is to build a special economic zone around the port of Sittwe. Thus, India’s influence in Rakhine will remain intact and their presence in the Bay of Bengal will be strengthened. India also wants to deal with the impact of the Chinese-financed Kiyakufu port in Rakhine through the port of Sittwe. Beijing has funded the port in Rakhine under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) strategic project.
Myanmar shares a 1,624 km border with northeast India. Furthermore, due to its geographical location, Myanmar’s role in active policy in eastern India is important.