China in its bid to further expand its infrastructure in South Asia, is planning to build a railway link with Myanmar.

The proposed railway link will connect the key oil and gas port of Kyaukphyu in Myanmar with China’s Yunnan province.

The Chinese are planning to develop a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Kyaukphyu as part of its efforts to develop its Belt and Road investments (BRI) in Myanmar.

Notably, the Governments of China and Myanmar had signed a deal on January 10 to conduct a feasibility study into building a 650km railway link, which will connect the deep water port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state with Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city.

Studies into a rail link between Mandalay and the city of Muse, on the Chinese border, have already been completed.

Also read: Police forces of India, Bangladesh agree to work jointly against terrorism

The railway link will largely follow the route of the Burma Road pipelines, which take oil and gas from Kyaukpyu on Myanmar’s Indian Ocean coast to China’s Yunnan province.

The oil pipeline pumps crude to state-controlled PetroChina’s Anning refinery, cutting journey times from the Mideast Gulf by around 3,000km or over a week and enabling tankers to avoid the congested strait of Malacca.

The China-Myanmar Economic Corridor is thus crucial for the Dragon Country , specially its western and southwestern provinces both for energy imports and export of goods produced by Chinese industries in places like Yunnan.

Signing of the deal between China and Myanmar is being seen as an important development in regards to the progress of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor and  part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. He can be reached at: sbhaum@gmail.com