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In a significant move the centre is planning to spend $103 million to develop Myanmar’s Sittwe port in a bid to provide India’s land-locked North Eastern states access to commercial sea routes.According to union minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh this would require developing the Kaladan river as a waterway connecting Mizoram in the North East with the Bay of Bengal. Ramesh said this would also enable the movement of goods from Sittwe to any Indian port by using sea routes. Once the project is completed, Mizoram would become a hub of international trade, he said. According to Ramesh cabinet approval is expected soon. Developing the Myanmarese port and making the Kaladan river navigable, India wants to give the North East access to the sea for international trade.
Sittwe, formerly known as Akyab, is situated in Rakhine state, a long narrow coastal region in western Myanmar, and is separated from the mainland by the Rakhine Yoma mountain range. It is the capital of the state and a seaport with a rich hinterland producing crops and fish. The government’s move assumes significance in view of Bangladesh’s reported reluctance to give India access to Chittagong port and its refusal to let a gas pipeline connecting Myanmar with India to pass through its territory.