By Sanjay Thapa Jeet
Cocking a snook at China’s ambitious silk trade route expansion, Modi’s ‘Act East’ policy is enabling India in making its presence felt in the SE Asian region with its 1400 km Indo-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) trilateral trade route. Bolstered by the new initiatives under of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi ”Áct East” policy, the Royal Thai Embassy Commercial Affairs, New Delhi has written to the government towards setting up trade markets in Guwahati, Imphal and Dimapur as interchange points for goods and services for Thai companies to operate. IMT trade route is the further extension of the Indo-Myanmar Friendship road that was started in 2001.
“I have already written towards this direction and we will be approaching the Ministry of Commerce on this matter,”said Tharadol Thongruang, Minister Counsellor, Royal Thai Embassy Commercial, New Delhi in an exclusive interview. The Thai Embassy Commercial has enthused new optimism under the new leadership of Prime Minister Modi who has turned around the ‘Look East’ policy to ”Act East” policy. Thai govt feels that they expect the 1400 km road project to enable a smooth route for all trade and commerce activities across the international borders.The officials said that there would be a reciprocal arrangement under the bilateral trade agreement and the Thai producers selling their wares would in turn buy Indian goods as imports to be sold in Thailand.
The trade route is part of the East West Economic Trade Corridor and is being seen as a big step towards the ASEAN free trade market for India . It connects New Delhi through Myanmar, to Thailand. The new Myanmar government in 2015 had temporarily withdrawn from funding the project however, the Myanmar Presidential visit last year cleared the project. The Indian government has even proposed to pump in funds to the tune US $ 100 million and construct over 69 bridges in Myanmar that fall in the IMT route. India will also be renovating over 73 bridges that are part of this route and are in need of reconstruction and repair. The Ministry of External Affairs has already cleared the project to be expanded further to reach Laos and Vietnam in the coming years. The completion of part of these projects are expedited to start operations by 2018.
Thailand gets a big share of its revenue from Indian tourists yet there was declining share of inflows towards Indian side. There were several trade avenues that have remained untapped. In order to further give a big fillip to the bilateral trade, the Thai Airways had already started a direct flight for Bangkok from Lucknow and Jaipur recently. However, regional connectivity in India still remained big hurdle and has jeopardised the movement of tourists within the regional circuits in India.
Last month the government of Myanmar approved a proposal by the Thai government permitting the latter to upgrade a 68 km road stretch from Thaton in Mon state to Eindu in Kayin state. A trilateral Motor vehicle agreement has already been signed up between the three countries and government has organised experimental runs of commercial vehicles between the three countries. Last month a motor rally was organised from New Delhi to cover the three countries and reaching Bangkok
The writer is an accomplished journalist with more than 2 decades of experience at India’s premier publications
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