Push for India-Burma-China
Road Link to Re-Open
Surajit Khaund, Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)
January 12, 2004
The regional governments of north-east India have long requested
that the famous Stillwell Road be reopened in order to facilitate
trade with Burma and south-east Asia.
Despite their pleas, India and Burma have made it clear that
they are not willing to meet the demand to have the road reopened
any time. Militant groups dominate a huge area of the road,
and leaders from India and Burma believe that if the road
were opened, it would help the insurgent groups to carry forward
their subversive activities in the region.
The Indian Home Ministry has openly stated this as being
the prime reason for keeping the road closed. The decision
has irked several states in north-east India as they have
been lobbying the Indian government to reopen the road in
order to increase their volume of trade.
The economic cooperation between India and other south-east
Asian countries has been increasing rapidly and hence several
states from north-east India – including Assam, Manipur,
Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh - have been urging the Indian
Commerce Ministry to consider reopening the road. The states
adopted a resolution in 2001 in which the transport ministers
from the region appealed to the Indian Surface Transport Ministry
to conduct a detailed survey of the road in association with
the Burmese government. Over two years later and the delaying
tactics adopted by the Indian government over the road survey
have north-east Indian local governments worried.
The famous Stillwell Road was built by the British during
World War II. Covering a distance of over 1000km, the road
originates in Ledo, Assam, and passes through the Hukawng
Valley in Mytkyina, Burma, before finishing at Kunming in
Yunan Province, China. A 300km stretch of the road passes
through the Kachin area of Burma. Considering the situation
in Kachin, where the Junta has little to no control, the Burmese
are not keen to reopen the road. As a result, the Junta has
continuously delayed the matter.
A spokesman from the Assam Department of Industry today said
that the department has already drawn up ambitious plans to
boost their trade with Burma and other south-east Asian countries
and hence the Indian government should take an urgent step
in this regard. He went on to say that the Indian Commerce
Ministry has been stressing their desire to increase trade
with south-east Asian countries, so the opening of the Stillwell
Road should be supported at the highest levels. The Assam
Department of Industry claims that the benefit would be felt
by the entire country. The Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun
Gogoi, has already submitted a memorandum to the Indian Government
requesting the reopening the road.
Considering the delaying tactics adopted by both the Indian
government and the Burmese Junta, the reopening of the road
is not likely any time soon.