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The road to prosperity

India's ambassador to Thailand, Anil Wadhwa, says new transport links between Thailand, Myanmar and northern India will be a boon for business

Anil Wadhwa, the Indian ambassador to Thailand, says New Delhi will host an India-Asean summit in December this year to mark the 20th anniversary of his country's relations with the 10-country regional grouping.

"The summit will be held from December 19-22. Most of the Asean leadership is expected to attend. The relationship between India and Asean stretches across various sectors, but we have given it one big shift in this summit by concentrating on areas like connectivity, which is very important for all of us, as well as frontier areas like science and technology, trade and investment.

"On India-Asean connectivity, we've talked about it for a long time, covering the horizontal and vertical connectivity, or east-west and north-south economic corridors. This includes rail and highway connections and other forms of transportation.

"In addition to bilateral sources of funds, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank have been among the other major sources of funds for these connectivity projects.

"As far as India, Myanmar and Thailand are concerned, we had an agreement back in 2002 for construction of the Asian-Asean highway, linking the three countries. This trilateral highway project covering total of 3,200 kilometres has been revived.

"A few weeks ago, our prime minister visited Myanmar and agreed to extend a credit line of US$500 million to Myanmar, of which $100 million will be used to fund reconstruction of this trilateral highway from our border with Myanmar all the way to the central city of Mandalay.

"After that, we will connect with where the Thai authorities are building a highway, which is 63 kilometres from the Thai border into Myanmar. After that, the road already exists.

"For India, we're rebuilding the roads and bridges connecting with Myanmar to allow freight and container trucks to move across the border. This trilateral highway will play a crucial role in boosting trade and investment flows in the three countries, creating jobs and other benefits.

"We expect this to benefit India's northeastern region as well as four of our states that are on the border with Myanmar, especially if there is connectivity to ports like the planned Dawei deep-sea port and industrial estate in Myanmar.

"Of the total 3,200 kilometres of trilateral highway, we will focus on building about 1,600 kilometres of roads in Myanmar. Besides the credit line offered by the Indian government, the rest of the funds will come from Myanmar and other sources. The road will connect to the northern Thai provinces of Chiang Mai and Chaing Rai as well as the Dawei deep-sea port.

"The feasibility study has been done. There have been some changes on the routing in Myanmar to avoid hills and valleys. Construction work has started, as we aim to improve the existing roads and bridges soon. This project should be completed by 2016.

"We will hold a number of events to promote the project, with a cross-border rally planned for later this year to pass through Asean countries as well as Thailand twice and then connect to Myanmar and India. This will help test the route

"Even today, we can drive up all the way to northeastern India but we need a highway that can take container traffic to allow better movement of goods. The rally will take place in November and December, passing through Phuket and Bangkok, where we will also hold an Indian food festival and other cultural events.

"We will also hold business seminars in Bangkok with the theme of focusing on business opportunities in the northeast of India in connection with Thailand. There will be up to 50 similar events in Myanmar and other Asean countries during that period."


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