Sittwe Port: Strategic Importance and Key Benefits for India and Myanmar

India and Myanmar agreed to work towards the operationalization of Strategic Sittwe Port in the first quarter of 2021.
India-Myanmar Relations
India-Myanmar Relations

Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla travelled to Mayanmar on a two-day visit. They also called on State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s Commander in Chief of Defence Services. 

Key Highlights:

1- Amid the unprecedented pandemic, the Indian delegation presented a package of 3,000 vials of the antiviral Remdesivir to help Myanmar in its fight against COVID-19.

2- Mayanmar has been prioritised by India in sharing the vaccines for COVID-19, whenever available. 

3- The operationalization of Sittwe Port in the first quarter of 2021 is promised. This will connect India's Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and Myanmar's Kaladan river to India's north-east region. 

4- The progress on India-assisted infrastructural projects (India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project) were discussed.  

4- Both the countries stressed over the security of their border areas and agreed to maintain peace and stability. This is because India is concerned over some militant groups which are active in the North-East region and are taking shelter in Myanmar. In May 2020, Myanmar handed over 22 cadres of Indian insurgent groups to India.

5- India announced a grant of $2 Million for the construction of the border haat bridge at Byanyu/Sarsichauk in Chin State. This strategic haat will enhance economic activity between Mizoram and Myanmar. 

6- The Rohingya issues were also taken into consideration with Indian delegation ensuring the safe, sustainable and speedy return of Rohingya refugees from refugees camps of Bangladesh.

7- India will also be establishing its embassy in Nay Pyi Taw after the formal inauguration of a liaison office in Nay Pyi Taw. India already has its embassy in Yangon.  

8- In addition to these, India will also import 1.5 lakh tonnes of Urad from Myanmar till March 31, 2021. 

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Sittwe port: Strategic Importance and Key Benefits

1- The port is situated at the mouth of Kaladan river and is financed by India as a part the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which is a collaboration between India and Myanmar. 

2- It is a deep underwater port on the Bay of Bengal and will enhance the transport infrastructure between southwestern Myanmar and north-eastern India.

3- After its operationalization, the goods can be transported from Kolkata to Sittwe port and then to Mizoram. 

4- The Kaladan Project will provide an alternative route to North-East India with the rest of the country. Currently, the narrow Siliguri Corridor provides access to the seven North-East states of India. 

5- With the operationalization of this alternative route, the transportation delays and cost overheads will be reduced significantly. 

Siliguri Corridor

1- It is also known as Chicken's neck and is a narrow stretch of 22 km. 

2- It is located in West Bengal and connects India's North-East states to the rest of the country. 

3- Nepal and Bangladesh lying on either side of the corridor. 

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Kaladan Multi-modal Project: Strategic Importance and Key Benefits

1- In 2010, India started working on a mega infrastructural project in Myanmar. The aim was to construct an integrated port and waterway transport terminal at Sittwe.

2- This construction was completed in the year 2018 at the cost of Rs. 517.29 crores.

3- The project reduced the distance between Kolkata to Sittwe by around 1,328 km.

4- It also reduced the need to transport goods via narrow Siliguri corridor. 

5- An agreement was signed between India and Myanmar for the operationalization of the port in October 2018. However, promised operationalization was hindered due to the conflict between the Myanmar military and the insurgent group Arakan Army. 

6- As per a local NGO, around 226,000 people have been displaced due to this conflict. 

7- In 2019, the insurgent group Arakan Army targetted the Kaladan project by abducting officials and Indian workers. This resulted in a coordinated operation by Indian and Myanmar military to avert alleged threats from the insurgent group against the project. 

Rohingya Issue: Highlights

1- Bangladesh has been pushing for early repatriation of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas. Thus, Indian delegation took this into consideration and assured safe,  sustainable and speedy return of Rohingya refugees from refugees camps of Bangladesh. 

2- India has laid emphasis on the socio-economic development of the Rakhine province to create enough economic incentive for refugees who will return from the camps.

3- In December 2017, India and Myanmar signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) on the Rakhine State Development Programme. This provided an annual grant in aid of $ 5 million. 

4- Both the countries noted significant progress under the Rakhine State Development Programme (RSDP) and India has proposed to finalise the projects pending under phase-III of the programme. This includes setting up a skills training centre, up-gradation of agricultural mechanisation, etc. 

India-Myanmar Relationship

1- Both the countries share cultural, historical, strategic, economic, social and political relations. 

2- Myanmar is a member country of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation). The ASEAN is an organization of East Asian nations while BIMSTEC connects South and South-East Asia.

3- The Kaladan Multi-modal Project helped India to sideline the narrow Siliguri corridor. 

4- Myanmar is helpful in the development of North-Eastern India. 

5- Myanmar comes under India's Neighbourhood Policy and Act East policy. India promised COVID-19 vaccines on priority to Myanmar when available. 

6- India and Myanmar signed 10 agreements on socio-economic development of Myanmar. 

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FAQ

What is the Kaladan Multi-modal Project?

Kaladan Multi-modal Project connects the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe seaport in Rakhine State, Myanmar by sea. It reduced the distance between Kolkata to Sittwe by around 1,328 km. The project was completed in 2018 at a cost of Rs. 517.29 crores.

What is Siliguri Corridor?

It is a narrow stretch of 22 km in West Bengal, connecting northeastern states of India to the rest of the country. It is also known as Chicken's neck.

What is the strategic importance of Sittwe Port?

Sittwe Port is situated at the mouth of Kaladan river and is financed by India as a part the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project. It will provide an alternative route to access North-East India with the rest of the country, apart from the narrow Siliguri Corridor.

Why is Myanmar important to India?

Myanmar is the only ASEAN country that shares a border with India, hence, is strategically important to India.
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