Work on trilateral highway to begin early next year

NEW DELHI DEC. 24. India, Myanmar and Thailand have decided that construction / upgradation of the three-nation 1,360-km Moreh-Bagan-Mae Sot highway would begin early in 2004.

A statement issued after a trilateral meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India, Myanmar and Thailand, Yashwant Sinha, U. Win Aung, and Surakiart Sathirathai, said the project work had been divided into three phases.

In the first phase, India would assume responsibility for 78 km of "missing links" and 58 km of upgradation. Subject to the Government approval, India would also like to take up an additional 132 km for upgradation, the statement said.

"Thailand will take up upgradation of 136 km and 62 km sectors in Phase-I and another 100 km as part of Phase-II. For its part, Myanmar has indicated its willingness to take up intermediary approach roads, reconstruction / rehabilitation of weak bridges, subject to the final approval of [the] Government of Myanmar."

In addition to this, India has expressed its willingness to prepare a detailed project report for constructing a bridge on the Irawady as well a causeway. The rough cost of the project has been pegged at $700 million.

With this schedule, the three countries have taken a major step towards the implementation of the trilateral highway project. For India, this is part of its "Look East" policy.

It was also announced that the task forces on the technical and financial aspects of the highway would continue to meet. A Senior Officials Group (SOG) has been set up to review the progress and implementation of the construction projects.The SOG will be at the level of Joint Secretary.

The third trilateral Ministerial meeting (the first took place in Yangon in April 2002) will be held in the first half of 2004 in Myanmar.

"The Foreign Ministers also discussed the proposal to construct a road from Kanchanaburi in Thailand to Dawei in Myanmar and development of the deep sea port at Dawei.

It was decided that the SOG will look into this project and report to the Ministerial meeting," the statement added.

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