India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway agreement soon

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The dream of a seamless travel in Southeast Asian countries will soon be reality with India all set to sign a strategic trilateral highway agreement connecting India-Myanmar-Thailand via road which is expected to give a big boost to trade and economy in ASEAN countries.

According to the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways (MoRTH), the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) is almost ready and will be signed soon. The agreement was to be signed last year but it was delayed due to elections in Myanmar.

“Various rounds of negotiations were undertaken by India, Myanmar and Thailand on the text of MVA and protocols. After a meeting of focal points in Bangkok in September, 2015, the contracting parties of IMT MVA broadly agreed upon the text of framework agreement. Negotiations on the protocols to implement the MVA have been under way,” said a MoRTH official.

Enhancing connectivity in southeast region is a key component in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Look East” policy.

The IMT trial run under the aegis of proposed IMT MVA was held during December 9-14, 2015 from Imphal in India to Mandalay in Myanmar. Thereafter, Thailand proposed the Mae sot- Phitsanulok route for plying of vehicles while Myanmar suggested extending the route up to Bangkok.

“The IMT will open the way for movement of cargo and passengers (including personal vehicles) from South to South East Asia up to Thailand. Once BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) and IMT agreements are operationalised, the dream of seamless movement of all types of vehicles between South East Asia which is SAARC countries and ASEAN countries will become a reality,” said the official.

The IMT will open up India’s landlocked north east to south east Asia, and allow freight and container trucks to move from Imphal to Mandalay. India has already built 160 kms. to this highway and has invited tender for upgradation of bridges and roads.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has already invited tender for selection of a contractor for construction of 69 Bridges including approach roads on the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa Road Section of the Trilateral Highway in Myanmar on Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) Mode.  The bid closes on July 19, 2016.

The Trilateral highway will also open up access for goods from north eastern region and other parts of India to other ASEAN countries through a land route once Myanmar is connected by road to Thailand.

There are already excellent transportation corridors linking ASEAN countries including the East West Economic Corridor (EWEC) which connects Thailand to the Danang port in Vietnam through Laos and Vietnam, North South Economic Corridor (NSEC), facilitating seamless movement of goods all across ASEAN through integrated customs stations. This forms a safer and shorter land route in comparison to the insecure and piracy affected Straits of Malacca.