Tall Claims Fall Short!
Narendra Modi at the 12th ASEAN Sumit held at Myanmar last November
NEW DELHI: A move by the Centre has debunked all the tall claims that New Delhi had earlier made with respect to the “Act East” policy, the policy which had the 56-inch chest thumping with huge pride. The Centre itself has extended unilaterally the deadline for its connectivity projects in Myanmar by three years i.e. from 2016 to 2019 which is a clear indication of the inability to deliver on the ground.
The two big projects that India is in control of- Kaladan multi-modal transport project and India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway have fallen drastically behind the decided schedule.
Ironically, these two projects, both under the Ministry of External Affairs( MEA), were actually showpiece initiatives put forth by India itself and blended the Indian government’s mantras of “connectivity” and more importantly, the bigger strategic vision of balancing Chinese power.
The projects had provided India with a golden chance to prove their sincerity in Looking/Acting East policy and show that this policy was not put simply on paper (read the speeches).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proudly relaunched the country’s old “Look East” policy at the 12th ASEAN summit which was held in Myanmar last November. He proclaimed “My government has been in office for six months and the intensity and (the) momentum with which we have enhanced our engagement in the east, is a reflection of the priority that we give to this region ... A new era of economic development, industrialization and trade has begun in India”, proudly adding “ Externally, India’s ‘Look East Policy’ has become ‘Act East’ policy”.
The first project, the Kaladan project, requires India to build Sittwe Port on BOT (build, operate and transfer) basis with India responsible for building jetties at Paletwa (in Myanmar) on the Kaladan river. Further, India itself has also offered to upgrade the Chaungma-Yinmabin section in Myanmar as well as the Yinmabin-Pale-Lingdaw section.
As far as the second project, the trilateral highway(which starts from Moreh in Manipur and ends at Mae Sot in Thailand) is concerned, India has committed to construct and upgrade about 70 bridges on the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa road section along with upgrading Kalewa-Yargyi stretch.
To further embarrassment, whilst India is lagging behind drastically , the Thais have already completed their part of the work and the Burmese have also made significant progress.
India, on the other hand, has been dodging it on the grounds the that MEA’s budget has been chopped in the past couple of years. However, one of the real issues is the interministerial coordination.
It appears that the government took too much in their hands than what they could really hold.