While India has close relations with Myanmar on several fronts, including security, energy security and food security, both sides have “some remaining boundary issues” for which a solution is being worked out, a top Indian official said.
Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, Secretary, Economic Relations, in the Ministry of External Affairs, said India’s relations with Myanmar is strategic given their shared land boundary in the northeast of India and their maritime boundary.
He said while both sides have inked an MoU on border area development, “We do have some remaining boundary issues where there are problems of identifying where construction can be done or cannot be done.. we are trying to work that out,” said Chakravarty at a roundtable conference on India’s Response to Changing Myanmar here.
His comments come in the wake of Myanmar troops last month attempting to raise a defence post and fencing close to the undemarcated boundary along Manipur. India had taken up the issue with Myanmar and pushed for a joint working group.
Chakravarty said the 1,400-km Trilateral Highway, linking India, Myanmar and Thailand is “still a work in progress”. Some portions of the highway, which is a major connectivity project of India and the ASEAN, are still to be completed in Thailand and Myanmar. The highway - from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar – is slated to become a reality by 2016.
He said the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project would provide northeast India access to Myanmar’s Sittwe port.
Addressing the roundtable, organised by the Society for Policy Studies (SPS), Burma Centre Delhi and the India International Centre, Chakravarty said with India being a major importer of fossil fuels for its energy security needs Indian companies, including ONGC Videsh and GAIL, were working in some blocks in hydrocardon-rich Myanmar. He said Essar and Jubilant were also among Indian companies working in Myanmar’s oil and gas sector.
He said Myanmar had shortlisted several other Indian companies that had applied for scouting for hydrocarbons.
India is also a major importer of pulses, including moong dal, from Myanmar, he said and added that both sides have potential for cooperation in palm oil and timber plantation in Myanmar.
India-Myanmar trade has grown appreciably, standing at $1.95 billion, with India’s exports at only $550 million. “The balance of trade is in Myanmar’s favour,” he said, adding that timber dominates Myanmar’s exports to India.
Both sides have two border trading points - Moreh-Tamu and Zowkhatar –Rhi and another is to be opened at AvakhungPansat/Somrai, he said..
Myanmar MP Pu ZoZam voiced concern over large scale poppy cultivation by Manipuri people in Myanmar and also hoped that Indian projects in Myanmar would address the concerns of the local people and not be like China, overlooking environmental concerns.
Pu Zo Zam, chairperson, Chin National Party and member of Chin State parliament, said his people “suffer” due to the poppy cultivation. “We don’t want opium to flood our country,” he said.
Tint Swe, former MP National League for Democracy, too voiced concern at the poppy cultivation, which he alleged the government was doing nothing about addressing.
Preet Malik, former Indian envoy to Myanmar, said India should also try to involve the private sector in Myanmar’s infrastructure projects
South Asia Monitor