Myanmar junta boss Min Aung Hlaing this week called India a good neighbor and friend as he visited the bilateral Kaladan transport project in Myanmar and demanded its rapid completion.
The Kaladan multi-modal transport project connects Kolkata with Sittwe in Rakhine State by sea. In Myanmar, the project will link the Sittwe seaport to Paletwa in Chin State via the Kaladan River and then from Paletwa by road to Mizoram state in northeast India.
The project is crucial for India’s Act East Policy and to counter Chinese influence in Myanmar through its Belt and Road Initiative.
As Min Aung Hlaing usually only visits Russia-backed projects since his 2021 coup, his inspection of Kaladan demonstrates his strong ties with India, observers say.
The junta boss was accompanied by his transport minister, former Admiral Tin Aung San, the Rakhine State chief minister, chief of the western command and Indian consul in Sittwe Bibekananda Bhattamishra during his inspection.
In November, Indian foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra visited Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw and discussed accelerating Kaladan construction.
The Kaladan project, started 12 years ago and aimed at providing an alternate route to India’s landlocked northeast, is scheduled to be completed this year after long delays. But challenges remain as the regime’s ceasefire with the Arakan Army is fragile and fresh clashes could break out anytime. Moreover, there is strong resistance against the regime in Chin State which will threaten the project.
Since the coup in 2021, India, which calls itself the world’s largest democracy, has moved to deepen ties with the regime which has been shunned internationally. India has been assisting the regime in military, economic and diplomatic affairs. It has also offered to help the junta hold a general election, which is widely condemned as a sham.
With China starting to distance itself from the regime, India has become the junta’s top partner, after Russia, with frequent high-level bilateral visits.
Indian representatives attended the regime’s Armed Forces Day and Independence Day parades.
Min Aung Hlaing has also attended Depavali celebrations hosted by the Indian Embassy in Yangon.
Source : The Irrawaddy