NEW DELHI, June 24 - The Centre may be in a denial mode over reopening of the Stilwell Road, but a new study commissioned by the Union Commerce and Industry Ministry has recommended rebuilding of the historic road to promote robust trade ties between India and Myanmar.
The study, titled ‘Enhancing India-Myanmar Border Trade Policy and Implementation Measures’, by Dr Ram Upendra Das of the Research and Information System for Developing Countries recommended that rebuilding the Stilwell Road from Ledo in India to Myitkyina in Myanmar shall provide a good platform for robust trade ties. Beyond Myitkyina up to Kunming in China, the road is already well developed.
India has been dragging its feet over developing the World War II road following objections from the Ministry of Defence. The study interestingly recommends that a consulate office of Myanmar should be opened in the North East at the earliest.
The study has also recommended improving trade infrastructure in Moreh, as well as road connectivity including converting the Imphal-Moreh road into a four-lane highway, developing road connectivity between Aizawl and Champhai and Zokhawthar, besides speeding up the launching of infrastructure projects.
It has also been recommended that air connectivity should be improved and Dibrugarh Airport should be upgraded into an international airport. Bus services must be improved, both within the border area and between the countries, the study recommended. Bus trial runs on a regular basis and car rallies could be a good way to connect people and improve road infrastructure, it felt.
The study has tried to address the question, as to why the situation fails to improve despite the knowledge of the issues. Overall, the study concludes that there are immense possibilities to augment border trade by adopting an integrated approach towards trade in goods and services, and investment. However, tremendous constraints remain.
Recommending visa-on-arrival facility to traders from both sides, the report said this is the single most important factor that deter trade and investment, as it restricts movement. For easier movement of traders from both sides, visa-on-arrival facility should be started, the study said.
The study also highlighted frequent bandhs and blockades, besides too many check points, extortion and illegal taxation. There are more than 20 check points, out of which, only two are legal. Security forces and insurgents demand illegal taxes and extortion money respectively. There is also a need to improve law-and-order situation and promote good governance, the study observed.