India will open a consulate at Sittwe, a sea port on the Myanmarese flank of the Bay of Bengal, becoming the first country to have three missions in the country. China and India have their embassies in the national capital and consulates in Mandalay.
Sittwe port, about 550 km from Kolkata, is slated to see considerable Indian activity soon after it becomes the mouth of a maritime-cum-road route to India’s North-East as an alternate to India’s sole link to the region via the congested Siliguri corridor.
The Myanmarese assent to the consulate came during a meeting between External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Myanmarese counterpart U Wunna Maung Lwin in Nay Pyi Taw.
“Taking into account India's developmental interest in region, especially the Sittwe port and the Kaladan multi modal project which is underway, Myanmar has agreed to India opening a Consulate at Sittwe,'” said official sources here.
Vessels would enter the re-dredged Sittwe port from the Bay of Bengal and unload cargo at Kaletwa on River Kaladan. Goods from there will be transported by road to the international border 60 km away.
It required the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to get the project going after Myanmar’s generals had raised issues about sovereignty. Under a modified proposal, instead of running the port, India will transfer the modernised facilities to Myanmar once the work is over and only Myanmar-registered vessels will ply on the waterway.
During Mr. Khurshid’s meetings, Myanmar welcomed India’s willingness to allocate $1 million towards developmental efforts in Rakhine State, the scene of ethnic clashes and large scale displacement. The projects will be aimed at benefitting both Buddhist and Rohingya Muslims communities which have been at loggerheads with each other.
The External Affairs Minister discussed four other major economic issues — a trilateral highway linking Myanmar and India to Thailand by 2016, the Rhi-Tiddim road connecting both countries, gas exports to India and the possibility of supplying power from the India-assisted Tamanthi and Shwezaye projects on the Chindwin river basin.