India-Myanmar trade to boom with Stilwell Road's opening

"Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of Ministry of Home Affairs has recently agreed in-principle to allow border trade between India and Myanmar for economic development of the North-East," Trade and Commerce Commissioner Makbul Pertin told PTI.

Arunachal Pradesh had submitted proposals to the Centre for beginning border trade with China, Bhutan and Myanmar at various locations. The proposed border points in Arunachal Pradesh for trade with China include Bumla (Tawang district), Kibitho (Anjaw), Taksing (Upper Subansiri), Mechuka (West Siang) and Geling (East Siang), while Dongsengmang and Blating in Tawang district have been proposed as the points for border trade with Bhutan.

"Border trade with Myanmar through Pangsau Pass will transform the economy of North-East by reducing time, cost and distance involved in trade with China and South-East Asia," Pertin said.

Myanmar has established an administrative and immigration post, as well as a market complex on their border with India.

"There is no Myanmarese custom post at Pangsau. However, a customs station is located at Tenai, at a distance of 160 km from Pangsau Pass," he said.

"The Centre, as well as the state government, in order to facilitate border trade with Myanmar, has already constructed a border trade centre at Nampong," he said. The Arunachal Pradesh government has been taking up construction of a 'border haat' marketplace, immigration office and bank facilities with foreign exchange services, besides posting security forces to assist all departments for operation of border trade.

Trade between India and Myanmar existed before Independence on a small scale. The governments of Myanmar and India on September 26, 1950, signed an agreement according to which the indigenous hill tribes of both countries living within 40 km of the border were exempted from the requirement of a passport for trade purposes.

However, the traders are required to obtain inner line permits from both sides, which are being issued by the authorities concerned.

"The state government in a notification on August 16 last year has allowed to conduct three-day market at Land Custom Station (LCS) Nampong on every 10th, 20th and 30th in a month in place of the existing two days on every 15th and 30th," Pertin said.

With reopening of border trade with Myanmar, a total of 34 villages on the Indian side would immediately be benefited, officials said. "Agricultural products, valuable timber, precious stones and ayurvedic medicines will be traded by Myanmar, while, coal, fertiliser, tea, finished wood products, electronic goods, clothes, cement, steel and iron products, medicines and processed foods will be exported by India," Pertin said.

The Indian side of the Stilwell Road, stretching from Ledo in Assam to Pangsau Pass, was built in October, 1942, during World War II under the supervision of Commander Joseph Stilwell. However, it was closed after the war due to security reasons.

The road with a double-lane up to Pangsau on the Indian side is under construction and expected to be completed by March this year. China has expressed its interest in re-opening the road and has already developed the Chinese stretch of the road linking it with its Super Highway No 320.

China is also involved in the development of various segments of the Stilwell Road in Myanmar. Stretching from Ledo in Assam to Kunming in southern China via Myitkyina in Myanmar, the road connects India's North-East with China's southern province of Yunnan.

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