Rajya Sabha member, team meet rebel Arakan Army inside Myanmar, discover poor condition of Kaladan project on Myanmar side

The contact between the Indian side and the armed rebel group operating inside Myanmar is important as it indicates that the Burmese military forces have been dislodged from the area near the Indian border

Updated - March 01, 2024 04:32 pm IST

Published - March 01, 2024 01:49 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena meeting with the Arakan Army.

Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena meeting with the Arakan Army. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Weeks after an important township of Myanmar near the Indian border was captured by the rebel Arakan Army, an Indian delegation led by Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena on Thursday met with the Arakan Army inside Myanmar and held talks about the road network that is vital for a flagship Indian project aimed at firming up overland and water connectivity with Southeast Asia.  The Arakan Army took the Indian delegation 12 kilometres inside the Myanmar territory and revealed to the Indian side that the road corridor of the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project is at present just a muddy track. 

The discussion with the Arakan Army was focused on the refugee problem that we have been facing as well as regarding the Kaladan project which is important for India. The part of the Kaladan project on the Indian side is ready as the road infrastructure has been completed on our side but nothing has been done on the Myanmar side so far. We drove twelve kilometres inside Myanmar on the Kaladan road and saw that it is nothing but a dirt track on their side,” said Joseph Lalhmingthanga Chinzah, General Secretary, Central Young Lai Association (CYLA) of Mizoram who was part of the team that met the Arakan Army. The Kaladan project is nearly $ 484 million connectivity scheme which remains affected by the deteriorating security situation, as well as technical challenges.

The discussion between the Indian delegation led by the Rajya Sabha member from the Mizo National Front took place when he visited the Mizoram-Myanmar border area to inspect the construction of a strategically important road and other facilities. The Arakan Army provided security to the Indian delegation during this visit, said The Lairam Time, a local media outlet of Lai Autonomous District Council, one of the autonomous district councils of Mizoram. 

The contact between the Indian side and the armed rebel group operating inside Myanmar is important as it indicates that the Burmese military forces that have faced significant reverses in the recent past, have been dislodged from the area near Indian border with Myanmar, especially in the Mizoram sector. “The reality of Myanmar today is that nearly forty percent of the country’s territory is under the control of various rebel groups,” said Mr. Lalhmingthanga Chinzah indicating that India may have to engage the rebels in some capacity for its developmental works.

Arakan Army originated in Rakhine or Arakan but by capturing the Paletwa township on the Kaladan river in January they have indicated growing military muscles as Paletwa belongs to the Chin region which is dominated by the Chin National Front. 

The fall of Paletwa to the Arakan Army gave rise to the impression that the military junta in Naypyidaw had lost control over the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project. The township was captured by the Arakan Army, a largely Buddhist composed militant movement that is fighting a nationalist battle to ensure autonomy or independence of the strategically important Rakhine province that borders both India and Bangladesh. Rakhine is also the home of the Rohingya population, bulk of whom were driven into Bangladesh by the junta’s forces in 2017.

The under construction road that Mr. Vanlalnvena inspected is aimed at connecting the township of Paletwa, and the port of Sittwe with Mizoram. Once ready, the road can connect Kolkata as well as the market of neighbouring Bangladesh with Mizoram through Sittwe port and enhance the commercial prospects of the northeastern region. The rapid rise of Arakan Army in Rakhine has intrigued the community of strategic commentators because of the manner in which it has delivered military setback to the junta of Myanmar which has been ruling the country with an iron fist since the coup in February 2021. It also increases uncertainties about the legal status of the Kaladan project as the Arakan Army despite military gains against the junta remains a non-state actor.

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