TODAY -

India, Myanmar and bus service
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: August 19, 2022 -



The report that the proposed international bus service between Imphal and Mandalay in Myanmar has been put on hold, if not abandoned totally, is understandable given the military coup in the neighbouring country and subsequent violent resistance movement raging across the country.

This does not mean no bus service can be launched between the two countries just because one of them is under military regime.

Definitely, there can be bus service between Imphal and Mandalay if there is shared interest between the two countries regardless of whether the ruling dispensation is a civilian government or a military junta.

By freezing the project of trans-national bus service, the Myanmarese military junta has sent an unmistakable message that it is not keen to launch any such project, at least for now.

In another word, there is no convergence of interest at the moment between India and Myanmar vis-a-vis Imphal-Mandalay bus service.

The military junta's reluctance to open its borders to India by opening a cross-border bus service is understandable given the sustained and massive resistance movement raging throughout the country but what is hard to fathom is India's laggardness to push ahead the much hyped and touted project.

Even an MoU was signed between Yangon-based Shwemandalar Express Company Limited and Imphal-based M/s Seven Sisters Holiday on February 14, 2020 for commencement of bus service between the two neighbouring countries within three months.

However, following the Covid-19 pandemic and the military coup in Myanmar, the project has been grounded. Seemingly, New Delhi developed cold feet towards its eastern neighbour since the military captured political power.

It appears that New Delhi's engagement with Nay Pyi Taw is primarily driven by geo-political and security concerns while economic cooperation remains a secondary consideration.

However, the people of Manipur in particular and the North East region in general see the proposed Imphal-Mandalay bus service as a new window of connectivity, opportunity and growth.

Here, one needs to keep in mind that the entire North East region is totally landlocked and it is connected with mainland India by the slender Silliguri Corridor, befittingly named Chicken Neck.

At the same time, the region has little or no connectivity with the neighbouring foreign countries.

Even as the information technology revolution dictates that the world has become a closely knit globe, and thus, globalization is inevitable, Manipur and for that matter the entire North East India still remain landlocked, backward and isolated from all directions.

As of now, Manipur-Myanmar connectivity is limited to the border towns of Moreh and Tamu.

No doubt, geo-political and security considerations often determine the nature of bilateral relationship shared between any two countries but no country can dare overlook the aspect of economic cooperation.

However, it appears that geo-political and security concerns override all other aspects of bilateral relationship as far as India and Myanmar are concerned.

Perhaps, that is why there is limited engagement between the two countries despite being immediate neighbours.

There was exception in the sense that at one point of time not long ago India did follow of policy of vigorous engagement with Myanmar and beyond.

But apparently all these engagements have either been derailed or stalled since the military took over power in the neighbouring country.

All options need to be explored by both the countries for active engagement and cooperation in order to tap the potential and opportunities provided by the region's highly strategic location and bring about rapid ecbnomic development.



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