SILCHAR , Jan 10 : It is a positive development that Myanmar has agreed to the proposition of India to reopen the Stilwell Road as was indicated by foreign minister of that country Nyan Win during his speech at the 5th Northeast Business Summit at Kolkata on Saturday. In fact, the prospect of linking the Northeast Corridoor with the Stilwell Road was taken up at the two day Northeast Business Summit in 2000 at New Delhi during the NDA regime which was organized by Doner Ministry and the Indian Chamber of Commerce. The thrust was laid at its feasibility since it would accelerate the pace of development of the region as a whole by making Assam, the epicentre of highways.
It is to be recalled that the Summit and the International Conference on Regional Cooperation at Margherita held in the same year brought into sharp focus the reopening of Stilwell Road as a major outlet for the Northeast. The Indian Government had developed, it was revealed, the Moreh-Tamu-Kalewa Road linking Mandalay in Myanmar which is in the south of the Stilwell Road.
But, while the Moreh Road connects Myanmar capital Yangon, the Stilwell Road of 1944 vintage provides access all the way to Yunan province of China. Landlocked Yunan province looks at the Stilwell Road as an access route to Northeast and Bangladesh market, besides Myanmar.
The Government of India in the past did have on its agenda the upgradation of the Indian portion of Stilwell Road as a national highway. The length of the road from Ledo to Pangsau Pass on Arunachal Pradesh – Myanmar border is 71 km. The portion between Pangsau Pass and Myitkyina in Myanmar needs development for traffic to flow for an express way exists between Myitkyina and Kunning in southern China.
The International Conference at Margherita was an offshoot of the Kunming initiative of 1991, envisaging the creation of the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar economic zone. The two day meet at Margherita built up a strong lobby for the reopening of the 1736 km Stilwell Road linking Ledo and Kunming via Myanmar. The Northeast Corridoor, it was felt, could be easily extended from Guwahati to Ledo via Nagaon to link it up with the Stilwell Road which would open a new vista of development for the Northeast by inviting investments from home and abroad. Major General BC Khanduri, Minister for National Highway Development Projects in the Vajpayee Cabinet, went on record to say that the work on the east end of the Corridoor from Silchar would be taken up soon. He also favoured the extension of the Corridoor to Ledo. The Corridoor would pass through NHs 54, 36, 37, 31, 57, 28, 76, 14, 15, 8 A and 78 B traversing the states of West Bengal, Bihar , UP, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and finally Gujarat. Besides the East-West and North-South Corridoors, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s dream project included six lane golden quadrilateral linking the metros of Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai circuit. He described it as the largest and the most ambitious project – a highway of prosperity for the integrated development of the country. THE SENTINEL