Rohingya issue, a setback to Indo-Myanmar connectivity

Last Updated 29 December 2019, 16:26 IST

India's ambitious project to build sea-river-road connectivity between its eastern ports and its land-locked north-eastern region through Myanmar has suffered a setback due to the latest wave of violence that triggered the exodus of Rohingyas from the Rakhine State of the neighbouring country in 2017.

The Ministry of External Affairs has informed a parliamentary panel that the situation in the Rakhine State of Myanmar caused a setback to the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project.

The work on the road component of the Kaladan Multi-Model Transit Transport Project was awarded in March 2017. The MEA informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs that the project had “regrettably suffered a setback” due to “the worsening security situation as a result of the Rohingya issue” in Rakhine State of Myanmar as well as due to the consequent financial insolvency of the contractor, whom the project was awarded to.

Lack of accessibility to the project area (in Myanmar) from India has also been “a matter of concern” for New Delhi, the MEA added in its note to the parlimentary panel.

The committee was “constrainted to note” in its report submitted to the Lok Sabha this month “the long delay in completing the work” on the road component of the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project. It asked the MEA to draw a road map for completion of the road component of the connectivity project in consultation with Myanmar Government to ensure smooth and timely completion of the transport corridor.

The minority Rohingyas have since long been victims of persecution in the Rakhine State, where Buddhists constitute the majority. They have been denied citizenship and most of them have been stateless, despite living for generations in Myanmar.

Myanmar's armed forces launched the latest military crackdown against the Rohingyas on August 25, 2017 after a militant outfit killed 12 security personnel in Rakhine. With hundreds of them killed and villages burnt down, over 723,000 more Rohingyas, including women and children, had to flee Myanmar and take refuge in Bangladesh.

The Myanmar Army's atrocities against the Rohingyas drew condemnation from around the world, with Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling it “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. New Delhi, however, refrained from joining others in criticizing Myanmar's Government and Army – ostensibly in view of its strategic interests in a neighbouring country.

The Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Corridor project is aimed at establishing a sea connectivity between Kolkata and Haldia ports of India and the deep-sea port New Delhi built at the confluence of Kaladan River of Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal near Sittwe – the capital of the Rakhine State of the neighbouring country. It also has a river component for establishing a boat route from Sittwe to Paletwa in Myanmar through Kaladan River and a land component for building a 62 km four-lane road from Paletwa to Zorinpui-Zochawchhuah border between India and Myanmar.

The MEA informed the parliamentary committee that waterways component comprising the Sittwe Port, the island water transport terminals at Sittwe and Paletwa, the navigation channel and the six 300 tonne barges had been completed. “Tendering for appointment of the port operator has been concluded and the process of awarding the contract is underway in consultation with the Government of Myanmar,” it added.

(Published 29 December 2019, 15:08 IST)

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