Photograph: Kind courtesy Arindam Bagchi/Twitter
The first ship, which was launched from Kolkata five days prior, was greeted at the port by Union Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal last week, kicking off operations at India’s strategically significant Sittwe port in Myanmar.
‘This will promote trade connectivity and people-to-people ties between India and Myanmar and the wider region, and will help boost the economic development of North East states under the Act East policy of the government,’ Sonowal said at the event.
‘I am confident that the Sittwe port will act as the gateway of India to Southeast Asia, ushering growth and progress,’ Sonowal said.
The $484 million Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP), which includes the project, was constructed with grant funding from India.
The project’s main goal has been to develop a different route for improved connectivity with North East India.
The port has a road component connecting it to Zorinpui in Mizoram from Paletwa in Myanmar and an inland canal connecting it to Paletwa in Myanmar.
As of now, the only practical route for transport in the North East is the constrained Siliguri Chicken’s Neck corridor.
The Centre claims that compared to the current route, this one is much more practical for trade and business between the North East and the rest of India.
According to Sonowal, the new port will result in a 50% reduction in logistical costs and time along the Chicken’s Neck corridor.
The ministry reported Sonowal as saying, “Although the distance by road from Kolkata to Agartala is around 1,600 km and takes four days to complete, the Sittwe to Chittagong to Sarboom to Agartala will be completed in two days, saving cost and time.”
Officials present at the event said the project, the agreement for which was signed way back in 2009, had been gaining strategic relevance over the years as India-China ties took a hit over the past few years, owing to several border skirmishes and China’s expansionist approach.
Having an infrastructural presence in the country was an important objective that will now be met, a source said.
India reportedly also confronted the Myanmar regime over the construction of a Chinese spy base in the remote Coco Islands situated in the Bay of Bengal, roughly 60 kms away from India’s own military base in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
(This story has been edited by Bharat Express staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)