Press Release || Fruits of connectivity need to reach People below and around the bridges



With ongoing connectivity projects underway between India and Myanmar through, the fruits of this connectivity needs to reach people below and around the bridges. This was flagged at the webinar hosted jointly by the Asian Confluence, the ASEAN India Center (AIC) at RIS, New Delhi and the Mandalay Forum for East Asian Studies, Mandalay on the theme “Brahmaputra-Ayeyarwady Dialogue: India Myanmar Cooperation for Prosperous Border Zone”. The discussion tried to assess the opportunities and challenges on the current agendas of collaboration, bring together a renewed narrative of cooperation post-COVID era. 


In his Inaugural address, Ambassador Saurabh Kumar, India’s Ambassador to Myanmar, recalled his visit to border areas and highlighted the role of the Border Area Development program put in by the Government of India(GOI) and how it has helped in developing socio-economic institutes in Chin state and Naga-Self Administered areas. He said that bus connectivity and border haats will be game-changer for people-to-people connectivity, particularly for health and religious tourism. A India-Myanmar Industrial Training Center is also being proposed in Rakhine state, which would give communities capabilities to enable them to get employment in industries which are coming up in Myanmar, he noted.


Ambassador Myo Kyaw Aung, Myanmar’s Ambassador to India, in his inaugural address brought out that connectivity plays a key role in the bilateral relations and India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway will act as a bridge between India and ASEAN for trade and tourism. He reiterated Myanmar’s commitment towards Indian security and Myanmar will continue to support India in curbing insurgency and terrorism


In her keynote address, Dr. Najma Heptulla, Governor Manipur advocated the revival of border trade and underlined the crucial role of trade and connectivity in the transformation of border states. She also brought about the unmatched potential of the tourism sector in NER and said, “North-East Region is a paradise unexplored for national and international tourists”. She also underlined that cultural and academic engagements between NER and Myanmar and talked about the Burmese language schools in Manipur Universities and other educational institutions.


Mr. R.K Ranjan (MP-Inner Manipur) told that Indian investments in Myanmar should increase especially in the agricultural and food processing sector.


In the technical session, chaired by former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Gautam Mukhopadhyay, all the panellists agreed that the way forward for India-Myanmar relations is to focus on infrastructure, trade and connectivity. Mr. Keiichi Onozawa, South Asia Regional Representative, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Japan highlighted the Japanese projects underway and  suggested that to improve its economy India needs to improve its labour laws to take advantage of its unskilled labour and improve its free trade agreement regime. 


Setting of border haats, more trade posts, bus connectivity, hard infrastructure and soft faciliation in the borders, sound policies dealing with illegal migration at borders, special processing zones at the border, etc.  need to increase Indian investment in Myanmar, particularly in the  agricultural sector. Increasing the productivity of people at borders with capacity building programs and investment in border economic zones were flagged as areas that need immediate intervention.


The webinar was attended by a panel of experts namely, Dr. Prabir De, Head, ASEAN India Center (saic) at RIS who made a detailed presentation; Dr Myo Thant, Founder and Chief Economist, Parami Roundtable Think Tank and Senior Advisor, MISIS, Yangon; Dr. Zaw Oo, Executive Director, CESD Myanmar, Yangon; Dr. Myo Myo Myint, Director, CEES Myanmar, Yangon; Ch Ibohal Meitei, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Skill Development, Manipur University, Imphal; Dr. Palin Khundongbam, Chairman and Managing Director, Shija Hospital and Research Institute, Imphal, and Dr. R.K. Shivchandra, Convenor, Act East Policy Committe.


The web event also had active participation from several scholars, practitioners, government officals and experts.


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