Right after taking over the operations of a part of Shahid Beheshti Port, Chabahar in Iran during the Chabahar Trilateral Agreement meeting that was held on 24 December last year, India is now all set to take over operations of Myanmar’s Sittwe Port. This will enable India to counter-balance China’s BRI initiative in the BIMSTEC region.
That the infrastructure at Sittwe Port in Myanmar, constructed with India’s assistance was ready for operation, was confirmed by Minister of state for Shipping, Road transport and chemical & fertiliser Mansukh Mandaviya in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha.
The construction of Sittwe Port is part of the Kaladan multi-mode transit transport project and its objective is to create a multi-mode sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar through Sittwe port as well as to north-eastern part of India via Myanmar.The construction cost of Sittwe Port and Inland Water Terminals at Sittwe and Paletwa came to Rs. 517.29 crore.
India and Myanmar signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 22nd October, 2018 for operationalisation of the port at Sittwe and Inland Water Transport (IWT) Terminals at Sittwe and Paletwa. Once fully operational, the project would encourage investment and trade and also open up alternate routes for connectivity to India’s north-east region.
This step marks the beginning of a long journey. India has written history with its engagement with Mayanmar and is now leading the regional cooperation and joint efforts to support Countries in the area.
This will be the second port India will be operating outside its territories. India started interacting with Iran on Chabahar Port around 2003 but a major push was given only in the second half of 2014, resulting in the signing of an MOU between the two countries for the development of Chabahar Port in May 2015. This MOU translated into a formal 10-year contract for equipping and operating the Chabahar Port, which was executed on May 23rd, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran.
Even the US with all its raving and ranting with respect to CAATSA could do nothing about Chabahar and to save its face quietly provided a wavier on the port as well as the railway line from the port to Afghan, after Delhi stood firm on its engagement with Tehran.