|Burmese say No
to Stilwell Road
Surajit Khaund, Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)
January 19, 2004
Putting an end to all speculation on the possible reopening
of the famous Stilwell Road, Burma today indicated that it
is not in a mood to fulfill the wishes of north-east Indian
state governments. The Burmese Director of Border Trade, Kyaw
Dun, appealed to the Indian government to go slow in regards
to the Stilwell road project. If opened, the road would provide
access to a vital transportation link from India, through
Burma and into China and south-east Asia
Kyaw Dun, along with the other five members of an official
party from Burma, arrived in Assam in India’s north-east
to participate in an international conference on regional
co-operation. They argued that the project is so huge that
it requires more time to study the feasibility of the project.
“Instead of reopening the road we should concentrate
more on other trade activities”, Kyaw Dun said.
Mizzima news group recently published an article revealing
that the Burmese Junta was not in a mood to consider the reopening
of the road. This is primarily because extended stretches
of the famous Stilwell Road fall under Kachin rebel controlled
areas where the Burmese Government exerts limited control.
As a result, the Junta has been stalling the process of reopening
despite repeated requests from north-east India.
Kyaw Dun did say that the Burmese Government would extend
all possible help to the Indian government in their efforts
to boost trade with south-east Asian countries. “We
are ready to help the Indian government to start any new trade
activity in the region”, he stated.
The Burmese position in regards to the Stilwell Road has
provided an initial setback to the Assam government, organisers
of the three-day conference. The north-east Indian state government
of Assam has been lobbying hard for the reopening of the road
with an eye to gear up trade with Burma and link directly
into south-east Asia. The conference is being attended by
huge delegations from China and Bangladesh, both of which
are expected to back a resolution in favour of the Stilwell
Road being reopened.
Kyaw Dun assured the gathering that he would take up the
matter of the Stilwell Road opening with his government upon
his return to Rangoon.
Visa problem for the Chinese delegation: At a time when the
Indian government is trying to boost trade its Asian neighbours,
several members of the Chinese delegation to the conference
in Assam were barred from participating due to their visas
not being cleared in time.
According to the organisers, among those unable to have their
visas cleared by the Indian External Affairs Ministry were
Professor Wang Chongli, director of the Institute of South
Asian Studies at the Yunan Academy of Social Sciences, and
two other academics: Hu Zhongpeng and Ziang Maoxia. All had
applied for their visas in time but the External Affairs Ministry
turned down their request at the eleventh hour and they were
therefore unable to participate in the conference. No reason
was given for the refusal to grant the visas.