Myanmar drags feet in talks on vehicle pact with India, Thailand

1360-kilometer-long highway to run in the three nations

Myanmar drags feet in talks on vehicle pact with India, Thailand

Trouble seems to be brewing for New Delhi's flagship initiative for connectivity to South-East Asia, as Nay Pyi Daw has dragged its feet on negotiation for an India-Myanmar-Thailand motor-vehicle agreement.  

The proposed agreement was intended to ensure hassle-flree movement of vehicles within India, Myanmar and Thailand, notwithstanding which of the three countries they are registered in.

New Delhi was keen to ink the agreement with Nay Pyi Daw and Bangkok, as it would help reap the benefit of the proposed India-Myanmar-Thailand highway - one of its flagship initiatives for connectivity with South-East Asia.  

Nay Pyi Daw, however, of late conveyed to New Delhi and Bangkok that it was not immediately ready to sign the agreement.

"Myanmar has conveyed that it would proceed with this agreement once it has comprehensively reviewed the implementation of similar arrangements it has with other countries," V K Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, informed the Lok Sabha in written reply to a question.  

This is New Delhi's second connectivity initiative to be stalled by one of its friendlier neighbours.

The Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor-vehicle agreeement too could not be implemented even after all the four nations signed it in June 2015. The National Council or upper house of Bhutan's Parliament declined to ratify the agreement, although India, Nepal and Bangladesh was ready to implement it.  

New Delhi has been keen to move fast on the 1360-kilometer-long India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, which is proposed to link Moreh in Manipur in north-eastern India to Mae Sot in Thailand through Tamu, Kalewa, Yargyi, Monywa, Mandalay, Meiktila, Baw Nat Gyi, Mawlamyine, Kawkareik and Myawaddy in Myanmar.  

India has already awarded contracts for construction of 69 bridges on the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa section of the proposed highway in Myanmar.  

India will also fund works for upgrading 120.74 km road on the Kalewa-Yargi section in Myanmar.  

 Though the officials of the three nations had some preliminary meetings to discuss the proposed agreement, Nay Pyi Daw dragged feet recently.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the issue with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, during his visit to Nay Pyi Daw in September 2017. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar also took it up with senior officials of Myanmar Government during his visit to Nay Pyi Daw last month, sources told DH.  

Modi may get another opportunity later this month to nudge Suu Kyi to give her nod to the proposed agreement. Myanmar's de-facto Head of Government is likely to visit New Delhi for a commemorative summit, which is being hosted by Prime Minister to mark the 25th anniversary of India's partnership with the Association of South East Asian Nations or ASEAN.  

New Delhi, which has been opposed to the Belt-and-Road initiative of China, often highlighted the proposed India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway as one of the examples of its own connectivity initiatives.

India has been maintaining that its connectivity initiatives, unlike the BRI of China, are alll "based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality".  

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