India, which has committed itself to carry forward the BCIM Economic Corridor, may try keeping out its north-eastern region from its purview in view of fresh tensions with China.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping to take BCIM-EC forward for the development of the frontier regions of the four countries — Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar – at the informal summit at Wuhan last year.
Also read: China, India have not given up on BCIM
The corridor’s route was expected to pass through Northeast India on the Kolkata-Kunming axis, broadly following the BCIM motor rally route – Kolkata-Dhaka-Sylhet-Silchar-Imphal-Tamu-Mandalay-Kunming.
Despite repeated demands from Assam to open the Second World War vintage Stillwell Road connecting Ledo in Assam with Kunming in China’s Yunnan province, the Centre has fought shy of doing do on grounds of security.
Also read: Modi-Xi summit: What should Northeast expect
The Stillwell Road passes through areas of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where substantiaL deployment of Indian troops to face China has been made.
Now with fresh strains in ties with China hanging over the Oct informal summit scheduled at Varanasi, India is likely to pitch for an alternative route for the BCIM-EC which the Chinese are likely to raise in view of the persistent interest on the issue.
The fresh route India has in mind is Kolkata-Dhaka-Chittagong-Teknaf-Rakhine-Kunming.
That would skirt Northeast completely if it were to materialize.
India would argue that the Chinese have already built a six lane highway and rail connection from Myanmar’s Rakhine to Yunnan in China – and the Dhaka-Chittagong highway has been modernised with six lanes with Chinese finance.
So this route would hardly need any fresh investment on roads as the Kolkata-Dhaka was already operational.
“The Chittagong to Rakhine connection via Coix’s Bazar is the only area where some work may have to be done,” said an Indian official but on condition of anonymity.
Since the Modi government has decided to give Japan a lead role in the development of Northeast, keeping BCIM-EC and thereby China out of the region makes sense, specially in view of the fresh strains with China strongly objecting to the reorganization of J &K and backing Pakistan for raising the Kashmir issue in UN.
Japan has already decided to invest Rs 13,000 crore (205.784 billion Yen) in several ongoing and new projects in different Northeastern states of India.
This was announced in June this year after a meeting between Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Jitendra Singh and a Japanese delegation led by Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu in New Delhi.