Akyab, Arakan: Burma and India have agreed to work on the multi-model port project in Akyab (Sittwe) in Burma’s western Arakan coast with India investing 4.5 billion rupees (100 million U.S. dollars), a local weekly journal reported on December 21.
The port, which is 160 kilometers from the Indian northeastern state of Mizoram, will connect with East Asia. Construction of the Akyab port project will start in January next year and it will be completed in three years, the Khit Myanmar quoted Indian sources as saying.
Implementation of the Akyab port project is mainly aimed at promoting trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries without using Bangladeshi territory. India’s public sector organization (RITES) is to rebuild the port, it added.
Relations between Burma and India have been growing better during the past few years with cooperation in all sectors, particularly in those of trade and economy where a target for bilateral trade is set at 1 billion U.S. dollars by 2006.
According to official statistics, Burma and India’s bilateral trade, including border trade, accounted for 557.68 million dollars in the fiscal year 2005-06 which ended in March, up 24 percent from 2004-05. Of the total, border trade accounted for 15.76 million dollars. Burma-India border trade for the first quarter of 2006-07 (April-June) amounted to 2.91 million dollars.
Burma-India border trade began in 1994 and so far there are two border trade points set up on the Burma side – Tamu (opposite India’s Moreh) and Reedkhandhar (linking India’s Zokhawthar).
It is expected that a border trade zone in Tamu will be established in the future as part of Burma’s plan of setting up such zones with neighbouring countries in the process of transformation of its border trade system at all trade points into normal ones following the emergence of such zones in Muse with China in April this year and Myawaddy with Thailand being established.
India is Burma’s fourth largest trading partner after Thailand, China and Singapore and is also Burma’s second largest export market after Thailand, absorbing 25 percent of its total exports.
Figures also show that India’s investment in Burma had reached 35.08 million dollars in three projects as of January this year out of Burma’s total foreign investment of 7.985 billion dollars since late 1988.
India’s latest and main involvement in Burma includes the building of the 133-million-US-dollar Reed-Falam Road, optic fiber link project between India’s Moreh and Burma’s Mandalay, and natural gas exploration and production at block A-1 and A-3 in Burma’s Arakan offshore areas being carried out under a consortium led by South Korea’s Daewoo International Corporation, in which the ONGC Videsh Ltd of India holds 20 percent of stake and the Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) 10 percent.
India has been seeking to buy gas produced from the two Burmese blocks and exploring ways of laying pipelines from Burma to India.