There is no impact of the coup in Myanmar on the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Transit Project (KMMPTT) linking the northeast to Myanmar and there is also no threat from the Myanmar-based insurgent group Arakan Army, officials on the ground said.
“Of late, there has been no incident where the Arakan Army has tried to disturb or hinder the progress of the Kaladan project. The project is progressing as per the timelines now,” said Brig. Digvijay Singh, Assam Rifles Commander in Mizoram. “It is always supported by the local people in Myanmar as development in the Rakhine State is a little less. So this road will certainly bring a lot of prosperity and business opportunities for those people.”
In early 2019, in a two-week long coordinated operation with the Indian Army, the Myanmar army destroyed 10-12 camps of the insurgent group which set up camps in Rakhine area and posed a threat to the KMMTTP. In November 2019, it abducted five Indians from the project site, one of whom died of cardiac arrest while in custody.
The Arakan Army is also supportive of the project as they want development in the region, a local official said.
Since the coup by Myanmar military on February 1, a few hundred Myanmar’s nationals including policemen crossed over into India seeking refuge. India has since closed all entry points along the border to prevent further crossing. Work on the project has been progressing without interruption, the official said.
The project has missed two deadlines and is now scheduled for completion by 2023, a project official said. The cost, ₹536 crore in 2008, has gone up to ₹3,200 crore now.
The project, which opens alternative route for the landlocked northeast, also opens connectivity to south east Asia. It also helps counter China’s expanding influence in the region, another official said.
The strategic outcome is enhanced mobility to the armed forces, create dual-use infrastructure and create ‘facts on ground’ through inhabitation of border villages especially up to the McMahon Line in the eastern sector, the official said.
The sea route of the project includes a 539-km stretch from Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and an inland water way on the Kaldan river from Sittwe to Paletwa extending 150 km. The land route consists of a 110-km stretch from Paletwa in Myanmar up to Zorinpui in Mizoram. There is an another 87-km road stretch from Zorinpui to Lawngtalai in Mizoram.
Work on the Sittwe seaport is complete as also the dredging of the Kaladan port. In June 2017, India handed over six cargo vessels to Myanmar. Work is now on the road stretch.