INDIA-MYANMAR-THAILAND TRILATERAL HIGHWAY
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- The external affairs minister met his Myanmar counterpart Than Swe and discussed expediting projects, especially the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, and underlined the importance of ensuring peace and stability in the border areas.
- India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT Highway), 1,360 km long route, is a highway under construction under India's Look East policy that will connect Moreh, India with Mae Sot, Thailand via Myanmar.
- The road is expected to boost trade and commerce in the ASEAN–India Free Trade Area, as well as with the rest of Southeast Asia.
- India has also proposed extending the highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
- The proposed approx 3,200 km route from India to Vietnam is known as the East-West Economic Corridor (Thailand to Cambodia and Vietnam became operational in 2015).
- This highway will also connect to the river ports being developed along the way at Kalay (also called Kalaymyo) and Monywa on Chindwin River.
- India and ASEAN have plans to extend this route to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as this connectivity will generate annually, an estimated US$70 billion in incremental GDP and 20 million in incremental aggregate employment by 2025, and India has offered US$1 billion line-of-credit for the India-ASEAN connectivity projects.
- In December 2020, Bangladesh expressed official interest to join the highway project in order to boost connectivity from Dhaka.
- The existing BBIN motor vehicle agreement facilitates reduced border controls and customs inspection for freight transport between India and Bangladesh
- The 160-km long India-Myanmar Friendship road linking Moreh-Tamu-Kalmeya-Kalewa is also a part of this trilateral highway.
- India has undertaken the construction of two sections of the highway in Myanmar: The construction of the 120.74 km Kalewa-Yagyi road section, and the construction of 69 bridges along with the approach road on the 149.70 km Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) road section.
- The highway’s Imphal-Moreh portion on the Indian side is expected to be completed by 2023.
- Also, India plans to upgrade the route from Zokhawthar in Mizoram to Tedim in the Chin State of Myanmar as an additional connection to the IMT trilateral highway
- Regional Integration: The highway will enhance regional connectivity and promote economic integration between India and Southeast Asian countries. It will facilitate the movement of goods, services, and people, fostering stronger ties among the nations.
- Counterbalance to China: The project serves as a strategic counterbalance to China's growing influence in the region. By strengthening India's connectivity with Southeast Asia, it allows for increased diplomatic engagement and economic cooperation, providing an alternative to China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
- Strengthening Act East Policy: For India, the Trilateral Highway is a cornerstone of its Act East Policy, aimed at boosting economic engagement and strategic partnerships with Southeast Asian countries. It enables India to play a more proactive role in regional affairs.
- Trade Facilitation: The highway will significantly reduce transportation costs and time for trade between India, Myanmar, and Thailand, leading to increased cross-border economic activities and trade opportunities.
- Tourism and Cultural Exchange: Improved connectivity will promote tourism and cultural exchange among the countries, boosting people-to-people interactions and fostering mutual understanding.
- Economic Growth: The project will open up new investment opportunities and markets for all three nations, encouraging economic growth and development along the highway corridor.
- Regional Development: The highway will uplift underdeveloped regions along its route, such as Northeast India and areas of Myanmar and Thailand, by providing better access to markets and resources.
- Political and Security Issues: The highway passes through regions with complex political situations and security concerns, which may hinder smooth implementation and operations.
- Infrastructure Development: Building and maintaining the highway require substantial investment in infrastructure, which can be challenging, especially in remote and geographically challenging areas.
- Coordination and Cooperation: The successful completion of the project relies on close coordination and cooperation among all three countries, involving regulatory, logistical, and administrative challenges.
- Environmental Impact: Construction activities and increased traffic may have environmental repercussions, necessitating sustainable development and environmental mitigation measures.
- Strengthening Diplomatic Relations: To overcome political and security challenges, the participating countries should enhance diplomatic relations and engage in constructive dialogues to resolve any disputes or concerns.
- Infrastructure Development: Investing in robust infrastructure development is essential. Governments should collaborate with private sector companies to mobilize funds and expertise for timely and efficient construction and maintenance of the highway.
- Regional Cooperation: Regional forums like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) can play a crucial role in fostering cooperation and coordination among the nations. Strengthening such platforms will facilitate smooth implementation and ongoing management of the project.
- Environmental Sustainability: Mitigating the environmental impact is vital. The countries involved should conduct thorough environmental assessments and adopt eco-friendly practices during the construction and operation of the highway.
- Public-Private Partnerships: Governments should explore opportunities for public-private partnerships (PPPs) to leverage private sector expertise and resources for the project's successful execution.
- Promotion of Tourism: Collaborative efforts to promote tourism and cultural exchange will boost the flow of tourists and enhance the socio-economic benefits of the highway.
- Monitoring and Evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of the project's progress will help identify any bottlenecks and provide opportunities for course correction, if necessary.
- Inclusive Development: Ensuring that the benefits of the highway reach marginalized and underprivileged communities will foster inclusive development and minimize regional disparities.
Q. IMT Highway will improve trade and commerce in the ASEAN–India Free Trade Area, as well as with the rest of Southeast Asia. Elucidate. (150 Words)