India after Chabahar Port in Iran is all set to take over operations of Myanmar’s Sittwe Port that will enable to counter-balance China’s BRI in the Indo-Pacific region.
In a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Minister of state for Shipping, Road transport and chemical & fertilizer Mansukh L Mandaviya informed that the “infrastructure at Sittwe Port in Myanmar, constructed with India’s assistance, is ready for operation.”
The construction of Sittwe Port is part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project and its objective is to create a multi-modal sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar through Sittwe port as well as to north-eastern part of India via Myanmar.
The approved construction cost of Sittwe Port and Inland Water Terminals at Sittwe and Paletwa is Rs. 517.29 crore.
India and Myanmar signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 22nd October, 2018 for operationalisation of the port at Sittwe and Inland Water Transport (IWT) Terminals at Sittwe and Paletwa. Once fully operational, the project would encourage investment and trade and also open up alternate routes for connectivity to India’s north-east region.
The development comes even as India took over the operations of a part of Shahid Beheshti Port, Chabahar in Iran during the Chabahar Trilateral Agreement meeting that was held on December 24th, 2018.
The heads of Indian, Iranian and Afghanistan delegation jointly inaugurated the office of the Indian SPV – India Ports Global Chabahar Free Zone (IPGCFZ) at Chabahar. The physical take-over of the terminal area, cargo handling equipment and Office building was completed by December, 29th last year.
Commercial operations began at IPGCFZ with the arrival of a vessel. A Cyprus registered bulk carrier had arrived at Chabahar with 72458 MT of corn cargo. The vessel MV MACHERAS berthed at the terminal a few days back on December 30th.
According to the ministry of shipping, “this step marks the beginning of a long journey. India has written history with its engagement in Chabahar and is now leading the regional cooperation and joint efforts to support landlocked Afghanistan.”
Interestingly, this is the first time India will be operating a port outside its territories. India started interacting with Iran on Chabahar Port around 2003 but a major push was received in the second half of 2014, resulting in the signing of an MOU between the two countries for the development of Chabahar Port in May 2015.
The US has already provided a wavier to India on the port as well as the railway line from the port to Afghan, after Delhi stood firm on its engagement with Tehran.