India blames Myanmar for Kaladan project delays

India says Myanmar is holding up a much-delayed project to provide an alternative transport link to its northeastern states via Sittwe in Rakhine State, an Indian newspaper has reported.

India and Myanmar signed a framework agreement in 2008 for the ambitious Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Project. It involves using a combination of sea, river and road transport to link Kolkata and other eastern India ports with Mizoram via Rakhine and Chin states.

In October 2015 the Indian cabinet approved a revised cost estimate of 2.9 billion rupees (about US$450 million) for the project, under which it has built a deepwater port at Sittwe.

The project is the single largest development activity undertaken by India in a foreign country, India’s Business Line newspaper said in a November 23 report on delays affecting road building and the port.

It quoted the Indian ambassador, Mr Vikram Misri, as saying that work on a 109-kilometre road linking a terminal on the Kaladan River at Paletwa in Rakhine with Zorinpui on the Mizoram border was waiting for “some approvals” from the Myanmar side.

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Misri, speaking in Yangon on November 10 at a conference titled, “India-Myanmar relations: The way forward”, did not elaborate on reasons for the delay but said he hoped the work would start soon, the newspaper reported.

India awarded a contract to build the road in June and work was due to have begun in October after the monsoon, said Business Line.

The “prolonged” delay in building the road had affected the viability of the port at Sittwe, which was completed by India in early 2016 and had a six-metre assured draft, the report said.

The port was handed over to the local government under the terms of the bilateral agreement on the project, it said.

“Almost two years down the line, the port has lost its navigability as draft is down to barely one metre,” Business Line said.

“Sources in both India and Myanmar blame it on prolonged disuse and failure on the part of Myanmar to continue dredging activities,” it said.

“As a corrective measure, India is now trying to amend the agreement to bring the port under joint operations.”

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