A recently opened corridor between Thailand and Myanmar is all set to link India with Southeast Asia and boost trade between five ASEAN countries and India.
The new bridge – part of the East-West Economic Corridor between Thailand and Myanmar – opened a few weeks ago.
Trade experts say it will connect Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam access to the vast Indian market through its Northeast.
That will help reduce too much dependence of these countries on China.
The second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge costing $140 million was completed across the Moei River recently.
It connects Myawaddy, a city in eastern Myanmar, and Mae Sot district in western Thailand.
Transporting goods will become easier on this new highway.
The East-West Corridor aims to build a large economic bloc along a 1,700-km land route from Vietnam to Myanmar via Laos and Thailand.
From there, Southeast Asian states can gain access to India over the Bay of Bengal and also through India’s Northeast.
India has built a port at Sittwe in Myanmar, which will be linked to Mizoram state in the north via a multi-modal transport network.
Besides, a highway connecting India with Thailand via Myanmar could become operational by 2020 and may be expanded to Vietnam.
India and Thailand recently signed pacts for port connectivity, strengthening its Act East vision.
Besides, India is expediting a maritime connectivity link between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Aceh in Indonesia, where it will build a port in Sabang.
India has major plans to expand its presence in the Ganga-Mekong region, which covers the five ASEAN states.
“These initiatives are to be linked with the eastern water grid that India is planning to develop over the Ganges, Brahmaputra and their tributaries,” Bipul Chatterjee of CUTS International, a leading public policy body, told Northeast Now.
“We should think about a multi-modal connectivity ecosystem in the Bay of Bengal that includes digital connectivity,” Chatterjee added.
Eastern Myanmar was initially designated as the western end of the East-West Economic Corridor.
But it was extended to Yangon, the biggest city in Myanmar, and will be linked to the Thilawa Special Economic Zone.
It is being built in collaboration with Japan, where Toyota Motor Corporation is building a plant.
“With completion of GMS’s East-West Economic Corridor, regional connectivity between india and Southeast Asia becomes stronger,” Prabir De of thinktank Research and Information Systems (RIS) told an ORF conference in Kolkata recently.
“Trilateral Highway connects GMS’s EWEC at Myanmar-Thailand border, further opening up prospects of value chain linkages between Northeast India and CLMV-T,” he had added.
“We need to negotiate Motor Vehicle Agreement with Myanmar and Thailand to facilitate seamless movement of cargoes,” De had asserted.
Following the opening of the bridge, Myanmar and Thailand have begun testing their cross-border transport agreement, which allows passage for vehicles from both sides.
The countries will issue licences to logistics companies to directly transport goods between the Thilawa SEZ and Laem Chabang , Thailand’s largest maritime port.
Construction of arterial roads is also taking place in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
In Myanmar, construction work had been hampered by ethnic conflicts in the border regions but some progress has been reported in recent months.