Being in the era of a globalized world, where boundaries are insignificant, the relationship between countries and their bilateral ties have become the center of importance. A decade ago it was the western countries that dominated trade globally. But as we enter a new era we can see Asian countries having a prominent place in the global market today. India, China and Japan today carry more significance then you know in the global market. India, during the early 1990’s started a policy called the “Look East” policy and it is now that these policies are taking center stage. This article throws light on two important economic projects undertaken by India and its neighbors. Before we get into the details of the economic trade corridors let us first look into what an economic trade corridor really is. Economic or Industrial Corridors constitute state-of-the-art transportation infrastructure such as modern expressway and high speed railway transportation that connect major industrial agglomerations, modern airports, Special Economic Zones and other industrial infrastructures alongside the route. The ‘corridor’ is thus intended to develop a sound industrial base, served by world-class competitive infrastructure as a prerequisite for attracting investments and industries particularly manufacturing. Now that we know what economic trade corridors are let us look into two specific corridors, which have been covered by the media of late.
The trade corridors that are covered under this article are:
- Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP)
- Mekong-India Economic Corridor (MIEC)
Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project:
The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project was first conceptualized in 1999 and a detailed project report was made thereafter in 2003. The expected time for the completion of the project is 2015. The project is a project to provide seaport connectivity to Northeast states through Myanmar. The port of Sittwe is to be used for this project. In a more microscopic view the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project will see the construction of a combined inland waterway and highway transportation system connecting Mizoram with a Bay of Bengal deepsea port at Sittwe, Arakan State in Western Burma. The project is to be completed in three phases, the phases of the project will be discussed later along the article. The completion of the project will reduce the distance from Kolkata to Sittwe drastically by 1328 km and it will also reduce the need to transport goods through the narrow Siliguri corridor, which is also known as the “Chicken’s neck”. The Siliguri corridor is considered to be the gateway to the Northeast regions of India from the mainland. This route is the only way to the Northeast since Bangladesh does not allow India to travel cross its territory in order to reach the Northeastern states. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs spearheads the project and the ministry is also funding it. The preliminary feasibility studies were carried out by Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES). Construction work on Sittwe port and the boat jetty in Paletwa, as well as the dredging work, will be executed by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), with Essar Projects Ltd, a division of the Essar Group appointed in May 2010 as the main contractor. According to a Framework Agreement singed in 2008, the Government of Myanmar agreed to provide the required land and security for the project, including security for all personnel and technicians for free.
The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transportation Project is India’s largest infrastructure development project in Myanmar to date. The total cost of the project is estimated at about $214m (1,135cr approx.). The first stage of the project is between Kolkata to Sittwe port, which is approximately 540km away by ship. The second stage is through the river Kaladan using in-land water transport from Sittwe to Palewa (160km) across inland water transport. The second phase requires the dredging of the Kaladan River between Sittwe and Palewa. The final phase of the project sees the construction of a 129km highway between Palewa and Mizoram border, which then leads to NH54 near Lawngtlai. The construction activity in the Sittwe port started in 2010 and almost 80% of the construction is over. The Project brings a lot to the table and it helps cut long distance travelling by a lot. Some of the advantages that the project brings to India and Myanmar are it improves transport infrastructure, with the improvement of transportation it opens up bigger trade opportunities for the farmers in the Northeast of India and also for the farmers in Myanmar. The better connectivity provides an environment for lower food prices and improved access to food. The project also provides employment opportunities and economic development to the small and medium enterprises located around the borders and the area. But projects always comes with its negatives, the biggest concern about the project is its effect on the environment. The people are also concerned about loss of livelihoods because of land confiscation and eviction. All in all the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transportation Project will help in the development of the Northeast part of India and it will boost ties between Myanmar and India along trade lines.
Mekong-India Economic Corridor:
A major industrial corridor is being planned in Southeast Asia by integrating the four great Mekong states i.e., Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. As part of the government’s ’Look-East Policy’ and its economic integration with the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries, India is now taking the initiative of promoting India-Mekong Economic Cooperation. Both sides are also planning for a Mekong-India Economic Corridor, which will form an integral part of the India-ASEAN connectivity. The Mekong-India Economic Corridor is expected to come up in the next few years. The Mekong-India Economic Corridor (MIEC) will be a network of land and sea infrastructure and ministry of external affairs (MEA) is currently studying the proposal. The basis of this corridor will be the larger India-ASEAN connectivity plans. It envisages the linking of vibrant emerging economies in the ASEAN region with India. The corridor will provide opportunities to Mekong countries to establish a strong economic base and a world-class infrastructure. The emphasis of the corridor is to expand the manufacturing base and expand trade with the rest of the world. The main component will be the construction of a major port in Daweii (Myanmar) and Chennai-Myanmar will be connected by a sea-link. The corridor will pass through Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City. The best part of the project is the travel time between India and MIEC countries will be reduced substantially. If the MIEC is completed it will bring lots of trade opportunities for India and improved infrastructure for better businesses.
Developments of such projects do not just happen, the road to these mega-infrastructure marvels are complicated. The MIEC corridor is being discussed in great details by all nations involved. The then Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh emphasized the importance of this corridor during his visits to the partner countries and also during the ASEAN summits. India has the spotlight in the global stage today. With President Obama visiting India for the second time making him the first US President to do so in a single term shows how the world looks at India. All the developmental projects with neighboring countries sounds well planned and well laid out. But it is to be noted that India will be able to take benefits only if we are able to develop our very own industrial corridors first, corridors like the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial corridor, the industrial corridors from Chennai to Bangalore and then to Mumbai etc. If we fail to develop our own industrial corridors then we cannot think of developing corridors that are twice as big. Failing to develop the corridors in India will increase the import of manufactured items from Southeast Asia. Therefore we should first focus on the development project back at home and then turn our attention to the international economic trade corridors that are under development. It is only time when India becomes a powerhouse in world geo-politics and a prominent figure in the global market.