In a boost to India’s Look East policy, a weekly cross-border bus service between Imphal in Manipur and Mandalay in Myanmar is set to roll in October this year. The bus link will help enhance connectivity and trade between India’s northeastern states and Myanmar, the bridge to Southeast Asia.
The bus route between will span 579-km long and the journey is expected to be covered in 14 hours. Currently, no direct mode of transport exists between Myanmar and India. One has to take a flight to Bangkok and then to Yangon or Nay Pyi Taw in order to reach Myanmar. The India-Myanmar bus service will, therefore, be the first to provide direct connectivity between the two neighbors. The road ministry is yet to finalise the price of tickets, but the price is expected to be below Rs 2000 rupees (approximately 33 USD). The governments of the two countries have also decided to grant visa-on-arrival to travelers on both sides.
The project was conceived during the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime and was supposed to be finalised during former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Myanmar in 2012. “The project which was in limbo for about two years got an impetus after the new government took over. Apart from strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries, it will also boost economic activity in the region,” said a road ministry official, who spoke to Hindustan Times.
The port city of Mandalay, which is now set to be connected with the north-eastern state of Manipur, was dominated by Indians during the British rule. Today Myanmar boasts of a 150,000-strong Indian diaspora and India is its fourth largest trade partner. The trade between the two countries climbed to 1.87 billion USD in 2011-12 and is expected to increase further with the decision to connect India and Myanmar via road.
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