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Kaladan project : Gateway To South Asia

Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project is the cornerstone of India-Myanmar economic ties. The initial cost of the project was estimated at Rs 535.91 crore in March, 2008 when it was approved by the cabinet. But in October 2015, the estimate was revised and it reached to the current figure of ` 2,904. The project involves a 225 kilometres long waterway route along the Kaladan River from Sittwe Port to Kaletwa and a 62 kilometres long roadway from Kaletwa to the India-Myanmar border. The Kaladan project is of great importance for both Myanmar and India.

Giving importance to the global connectivity through regional linkages is one of the most important policies, which will be beneficial in future. At the regional level, focusing on South East Asia, India is trying to pragmatically implement this theoretical framework through various connectivity programmes with Southeast Asian countries.

As one of the most rich and civilized states with greater capabilities and broader visions, India is certainly expected to surge ahead with this goal. Connectivity of India and Southeast Asia through Kaladan Project, which will run through India and Myanmar will prove beneficial or detrimental for the overall development and integration of the region from a global perspective, and it will be able to minimise the country-wise or region-wise disparity in the region, as envisaged by the UN Human Development Report. The project therefore, is very crucial for India. Development of North east India is highest priority and Kaldan project is a hope for this region.

  1. Conjoining Southeast Asian region, which is widely separated on the basis of ‘territoriality’, is the main theme of India’s ‘Look East Policy’. After a decade, the Look East Policy has been is a spectacular success and is considered as the ‘masterstroke’ of Indian foreign policy.
    However, Myanmar is widely neglected in terms of ‘connectivity’. Geographically, Myanmar is a gateway to Southeast and can be a central hub for exchange of goods, services and technology. Underdeveloped infrastructure and unfavourable business and institutional environment seriously affect the participation of the economy in the global and regional networks. Cross-border connectivity will play a very important role, establishing better connectivity through all means. Material, institutional and ‘people-to-people connectivity’, will allow Myanmar, India and the other Southeast Asian countries to raise possibilities for collaboration in different sectors among themselves. It will also provide opportunities to expand economic development in the region, regional interconnectivity through infrastructure development, trade facilitation and regulatory harmonisation among the respective economies. India, Myanmar and other ASEAN members will be in a position to shape up every economy, make it more dynamic and bring enormous benefits to the entire region. The region can be a central hub for exchange of, services, goods and technology. Underdeveloped infrastructure and unfavourable institutional and business environment seriously limit the participation of the economy in the regional and global networks. Cross-border connectivity will play a very important role in such a scenario. Establishing better connectivity by all means, namely, material, institutional and ‘people-to-people direct contact will provide a new platform of development to Myanmar, India and other countries in South East Asia.
  2. Unfortunately, the indifferent attitude towards development in the North east region in India has resulted into insurgency. As a result, India had to shift its focus from ‘development-integration- connectivity’ to ‘internal security’. Interestingly, it should be noted here that the KMMTT is just one of many infrastructure projects in which India is currently interested and going ahead.

There are several linkage projects between India and Myanmar. Some of the important ones are: (i) Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT), (ii) Sittwe port, (iii)) Border Liaison Office (BLOs), development to improve land and water communication links, (iv) Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo road, (v) Rih-Tiddim (80.1 7 km) and Rih-Falam (151.5 km) road, (vi) Tamanthi and Shwezaye hydropower projects, (vii) Development of Myanmar’s offshore Shwe oil and natural gas fields, (viii) India- Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (Moreh-Bagan-Moe Sot), etc.

The idea for Kaladan multi-modal transport project was mooted in 2003. However, India and Myanmar signed the framework agreement for Kaladan project in 2008 but no sufficient funds have been allotted for this project.

4. Kaladan is a ₹ 2,904 crore project aimed at enhancing economic ties between Myanmar and India. Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project is cornerstone of India-Myanmar economic ties. The initial cost of the project was estimated at ₹ 535.91 crore in March, 2008 when it was approved by the cabinet. But in October, 2015 the estimate was revised and the current figure of ₹ 2,904 was calculated.


The project involves a 225 kilometres long waterway route along the Kaladan River from Sittwe Port to Kaletwa and a 62 kilometres long roadway from Kaletwa to the India-Myanmar border. The Kaladan project is of great importance for both Myanmar and India. Once completed, it will provide a huge boost to the economy of Myanmar by enhancing trade through the Sittwe port. It is also extremely important for India as it will provide a second route for transporting goods from India’s North East to rest of the country and the rest of the world. At present, the North East region in India is connected to mainland by only a narrow strip of land, which has a very difficult access.

Apart from boosting the economy of Myanmar, the project will also make for an alternative route for goods from India’s North-East to rest of the country and world. Furthermore, the project will help India counter balance China’s growing influence in Myanmar. The waterway part of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project is expected to be completed soon and the road part should be completed and operational by 2019. Essar, an Indian multinational conglomerate holding company, is involved in the project and is working to build is the Sittwe port. The dredging work on Kaladan River has been started and construction is expected to be completed soon.

– Bhalchandra Diwadkar


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