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India planning to set up SEZ in Myanmar's Sittwe.

Date: 02-08-2016
Subject: India planning to set up SEZ in Myanmar's Sittwe
NEW DELHI: It is not just Iran's Chabahar port and connectivity to Eurasia that has caught attention of the Modi government. India plans to set up a Special Economic Zone in Sittwe in Myanmar where it has already built a port. The proposed SEZ by India will rival Chinese SEZ located 80 km down of strategically located Sittwe as Delhi plans to make it as an economic hub.

The aim of the SEZ is to help expand India's footprints in South East Asia amid China plans fir massive road and port connectivity projects in the region as part of its One Belt One Road initiative. India's plan for SEZ was explained by MoS External Affairs V K Singh at the India-ASEAN Foreign Ministers meet at Laos earlier this week.

"India remains committed in its support for implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity as well as and the Post-2015 Agenda for ASEAN Connectivity. Even as we work assiduously to enhance our physical connectivity and explore the extension of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway into Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam, I urge Thailand and Myanmar to join hands and find creative solutions for the early conclusion of the Motor Vehicles Agreement and I would also like to invite ASEAN countries to participate in the Sittwe Economic Zone," Singh said in his closing remarks at the India-ASEAN Ministerial meeting in Vientiane, Laos on July 25. This meeting was aimed at preparing for the India-ASEAN Summit early September in Laos that will be attended by the PM.

This SEZ will be located about 37 miles upstream of Sittwe town, officials familiar with the development told ET. The SEZ is being planned at Ponnagyun township, the officials added. 1,000 acres of land available for development of the SEZ. Chinese Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone and port is around 80 km down of the SEZ, officials pointed out. According to people familiar with the developments this SEZ is aimed at providing China direct overview of busy shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean Region. Therefore India's presence in the region becomes imperative. The Indian SEZ project is expected to receive momentum when Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi visits India later this year.

Officials familiar with the developments pointed out that developing this SEZ would be very useful since India has developed the port liked to the Kaladan multi-modal project that will connect Mizoram and rest of landlocked Northeast with Southeast Asia via Myanmar. With this SEZ, the entire zone becomes a comprehensive project captive market for Indian investments, the officials noted. Besides China setting up Kyaukpyu SEZ and port, Thais setting up Dawei port and SEZ (where India has also been invited), Japanese are building Thilawa port and SEZ - all in Myanmar. And with India in Sittwe a great game is unfolding in the region.

Sittwe Port is a deepwater port on the Bay of Bengal in Myanmar's Rakhine state. Situated at the mouth of the Kaladan river, the port estimated at $ 120 million has been financed by India as a part of the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project. The port is being funded through a long-term interest-free credit line from India.

Meanwhile What has also gone unnoticed is that India is setting up an ASEAN study-centre to push its Act East Policy in the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong as announced by Modi in the last India-ASEAN Summit in Malaysia. This centre will be inaugurated by V K Singh ahead of the India-ASEAN Summit in Laos.

Source : economictimes.indiatimes.com

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