NEW DELHI: Connectivity to Myanmar through the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, entails construction of 69 bridges, is important for India’s strategy to contain insurgency in the north-east. But, the inordinate delay in the project has irked the Parliamentary Panel on External Affairs.
The Parliamentary Panel on External Affairs has also expressed its doubt on the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) claims that the tendering process will be completed within the stipulated time. The committee faulted the MEA that in the last financial year (2015-16) it was “unable to utilize even half the provided budget outlay”.
The Kaladan project is estimated to cost around Rs. 29 billion. On completion, it will provide an alternate route to the existing longer route between the northeastern states and India passing via Siliguri in West Bengal, better known as the Chicken’s Neck. The MEA has been expecting that Road Component under the Kaladan project would commence in 2015-16. “However, it took significant time in obtaining necessary approvals for these projects,” the MEA responded to the Panel’s queries and justified it saying that training programme and small development projects were carried out as ‘Aid to Myanmar’.
India has undertaken the construction of 69 bridges and Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa section of the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway and upgrade the Kalewa-Yargi section of the highway. Warm relations with Myanmar are imperative if India wants to restrict the insurgency in the north-east as many outfits have network across the 1600 km long border that the two countries share.
The Committee expressed its dissatisfaction at the justification given by the MEA for the delays saying it could have easily anticipated with a certain amount of foresight on part of the Ministry and avoided the situation of locking up of scarce funds pending approvals. “Moreover, carrying out of less capital intensive projects such as training programmes and small development projects cannot compensate for the loss of time and resources in big ticket projects,” the Panel headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in a report tabled in the Parliament.