Category Archives: Infrastructure

Myanmar Junta Asks Telenor Executives Not to Leave the Country

Credit:Flickr

The Norwegian telecoms firm is awaiting regulatory approval for the sale of its Myanmar operation.

Myanmar’s military junta confirmed that it asked executives from the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor not to leave the country, pending the authorities’ approval of the company’s deal to sell its operation in the country.

In an interview with Reuters published yesterday, Aung Naing Oo, the military-appointed investment minister, said that the military administration wanted “to have discussions physically with some of the Telenor management.” He admitted, “It’s kind of a request not to leave the country.”

Aung Naing Oo’s comment confirms the claim, also reported by Reuters in July, that senior telecoms executives had been barred from leaving the country. The news agency reported at the time that Myanmar’s Department of Posts and Telecommunications had issued a confidential order in mid-June stating that senior executives of telecoms firms, both foreigners and Myanmar nationals, must seek special authorization in order to leave the country.

In his interview with Reuters this week, Aung Naing Oo said that the move only applied to Telenor, “not to foreign telecoms officials from all foreign telecom companies.” He said the restriction was in place because the junta “want to have discussions physically with some of the management in Telenor.”

In July, the Norwegian firm, announced the sale of its mobile operations in Myanmar to M1 Group, a Lebanese company, for the knockdown price of $105 million, two months after booking a loss of nearly $800 million on its investment. The company stated that “further deterioration of the situation and recent developments in Myanmar form the basis for the decision to divest the company.”

In addition to the severe deterioration in the business environment that followed the coup, the sale may also have been motivated by the junta’s attempts to force Telenor, along with the country’s other three telecoms firms, to implement special intercept technology in order to permit the authorities to spy on calls, messages, and web traffic.

Telenor reportedly resisted the requests to install the technology. In its May statement announcing that it was fully impairing its Myanmar operations, the company called on the military administration “to immediately reinstate unimpeded communications and respect the right to freedom of expression and human rights.”

The departure of Telenor, whose entry to the Myanmar market in 2014 symbolized the optimism of the political and economic opening then underway, points to the increasingly severe and challenging operating environment facing foreign firms.ADVERTISEMENT

The confirmation from Aung Naing Oo also comes amid similar reports that the military junta has begun to impose broader restrictions on departures from the country. According to a report yesterday by Coconuts Yangon, Myanmar citizens are being turned away from Yangon’s airport in order to prevent them from leaving the country. Citing travelers and tourist agencies, it reported that 17 travelers were blocked from embarking on flights at the airport last weekend. It cited an airport employee as stating that new restrictions have been put in place to prevent people from leaving the country.

For what exact reason one can only guess. But with Myanmar junta’s coming under increasing international censure, foreign nationals and capital slowly draining out of the country, and the popular resistance to the junta spreading, the country’s cloistered military rulers seem set on battening down the hatches, and returning the country to its close-woven cocoon of isolation.

By: Sebastian Strangio
Credit: thediplomat.com

Why AUKUS Alarms ASEAN

Royal Australian Navy sailors throw heaving lines from a submarine returning to Fleet Base West near Perth, Australia, on March 19, 2020. AUSTRALIAN DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE

The bloc is struggling to preserve unity—and can’t decide what to do about the new U.S.-China rivalry.

For about two decades after the end of the Cold War, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) enjoyed a golden age. The organization’s 10 member states as well as China and the United States saw the bloc as key to the region’s security and economic integration. ASEAN as a collective entity worked hard to put itself at the center of regional architecture through a complex web of security institutions and relationships. At the height of its golden age, ASEAN believed it was in the driver’s seat of the region’s fortunes.

That golden age is over. Last week, ASEAN, which usually needs unanimous agreement to function, was struggling to preserve unity. After an emergency meeting about the crisis in Myanmar on Oct. 15, the bloc excluded Myanmar’s junta leader from an upcoming ASEAN summit, a rare move for the organization. As a loose organization without a clear strategic vision of its own, it is floundering as individual members break ranks and realign in the new U.S.-China rivalry. The recent announcement of the new so-called AUKUS military and technology pact among Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States has raised the region’s geopolitical stakes even further, casting yet another spotlight on ASEAN’s strategic paralysis.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. In one of the world’s most dynamic regions, a system led by either the United States or China would be untenable; ASEAN therefore made its virtue out of its desire to stay out of superpower conflicts. Because of its multilateral nature, consensual decision-making, and lack of strategic ambitions beyond its borders, ASEAN was seen as an honest, neutral broker. For the region’s diplomats, so-called ASEAN centrality—that ASEAN will speak for the region as a whole when outside powers are involved—became an article of faith.

In recent years, however, the edifice of centrality has crumbled. As former Singaporean diplomat Bilahari Kausikan argued, the great powers are fine with ASEAN centrality as long as it serves their interests. Individual member states have also made a mockery of the bloc’s unity by cutting their own deals with outside powers and blocking joint ASEAN action.

The first notable crack in ASEAN’s armor came in 2012. Cambodia, which held the organization’s rotating chair at the time, torpedoed an important ASEAN communiqué because drafts had mentioned the dispute between several member states and China in the South China Sea. Phnom Penh is seen to be closely aligned with Beijing.

But it’s not just China that’s working around ASEAN to achieve its goals. The Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy espoused by Australia, India, Japan, and the United States is a case in point. The strategy has innocuous-sounding principles: freedom of navigation and overflight, adherence to international law, and regional connectivity. But its power is it highlights principles China rejects. Most ASEAN members are maritime states and would strongly support these principles, but supporting the U.S.-led strategy publicly would rile China. For fear of enraging Beijing, ASEAN has struggled to take a collective position.

The same goes for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue—known as the Quad and formed by those same four states—which ASEAN countries fear is another red flag to China’s bull. Although the Quad, innocuously enough, is working on tangible deliverables—such as vaccine delivery, climate measures, and emerging technologies—it can also bring power to bear in and around the South China Sea in the form of joint military exercises and training. In August and October, the four Quad members’ navies conducted maritime exercises in the Philippine Sea and the Bay of Bengal, respectively. As a testament to these drills’ growing importance, the United States announced plans to possibly include Britain’s Royal Navy in the future. That non-ASEAN powers in the region are moving forward in the critical area of maritime security highlights ASEAN’s failure to push back against Chinese assertiveness.

But nothing has shaken ASEAN as much as AUKUS. The new pact announced last month involves the United States and Britain supplying Australia’s navy with nuclear technology to power a new generation of attack submarines that could definitively shift the region’s balance of power.

By: William Choong, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and the managing editor of Fulcrum, and Sharon Seah, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and the coordinator of its ASEAN Studies Centre.


Credit: foreignpolicy.com

India Myanmar Thailand Trilateral (IMT) Highway: Location, significance, benefits and other details

The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway starts from India and goes to Thailand via Myanmar. Recently Bangladesh has shown its willingness to join the tripartite highway.

mIMT tripartite Highway

Why in News?

The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway starts from India and goes to Thailand via Myanmar. It is at the centre of transport diplomacy among ASEAN countries. Recently Bangladesh has shown its willingness to join the tripartite highway. 

About the IMT Trilateral Highway:

  1. The highway’s Imphal-Moreh portion on the Indian side, however, is expected to be completed only by 2023.
  2. It will be linking Moreh (India) -Bagan (Myanmar) -Mae Sot (Thailand)  
  3. This highway is expected to help greatly in the transport connectivity which is almost 3660 km long cross border highway network and is currently under construction, expected to be completed by 2021.
  4. The transnational highway connectivity was envisaged to enable trade from India to the other ASEAN nations.
  5. It was decided to extend the Trilateral Highway to Lao PDR and Cambodia to deepen the India-ASEAN Relations at the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit 2012.

Bangladesh’s desire to join:

  1. Bangladesh is interested in joining the IMT Trilateral Highway to enhance the connectivity with South East Asia. It wants to open new chapters in trans border corridors in the Indo Pacific Region. 
  2. Recently India Bangladesh Virtual Summit was held where the latter expressed its willingness to join the IMT Highway. Sheikh Hasina the Bangladesh PM wished Narendra Modi to help Bangladesh in its efforts.
  3. Also to commemorate the significance of the road from Mujib Nagar to Nodia on Bangladesh-India border during the Liberation War, Bangladesh proposed to name it as “Shadhinota Shorok”.
  4. Bangladesh wishes to join it now as BCIM, Bangladesh China India Myanmar corridor has made little progress. Also, India skipped the Belt and Road Forum which led to exclusion of BCIM Corridor from the list of projects covered by BRI.
  5. Bangladesh also wants to trade with Nepal through India. It wants to use Indian roadways to get its trucks into Nepal.

Benefits of the project

  1. The India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highways project is aimed at opening the gate to ASEAN through the land. 
  2. The project will boost trade and commerce in the ASEAN–India Free Trade Area, as well as with the rest of Southeast Asia.
  3. Since India has been working towards increasing its engagements with South East Asia under its `Act East Policy’ the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the region.

India’s efforts under the project:

India has undertaken the construction of two sections of the Trilateral Highway in Myanmar. These are the 120.74 km Kalewa-Yagyi road section and 69 bridges along with the approach road on the 149.70 km Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) road section.

India requested for one Land Port without a negative list, starting with Agartala-Akhaura and for transportation of goods from Chattogram port to the North East of India. India also proposed that its trucks use the Feni Bridge, once it is complete.

Way Forward:

Recently India and Bangladesh have expanded their transport and connectivity routes. Sonamura Daudkandi Inland Waterway Route, Feni Bridge from Sabroom to Ramgarh and Haldibari Chilahati rail route are its examples. Leaving India aside now it is upto Thailand and Myanmar to accept Bangladesh to join IMT Highway. 

Credit: www.jagranjosh.com

Mitsubishi Corp. wins $663m train car contract in Myanmar

Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp. will deliver new train cars that will shorten journeys on the Yangon Circular Railway and between Yangon and Mandalay. (Photo courtesy of the company)

Japan firm to deliver 246 cars for Yangon Circular and Mandalay routes

Mitsubishi Corp. has signed two contracts with Myanmar’s state-run railway, Myanma Railways, to deliver new rolling stock, the Japanese trading house said Tuesday.

The total cost of the two projects is approximately 69 billion yen ($663 million), which will be covered by an international yen loan agreement between the governments of Japan and Myanmar. The projects are part of the Japanese government’s railway infrastructure export drive.

Mitsubishi will deliver 66 cars for the Yangon Circular Railway, which runs in a loop in Myanmar’s largest city, and 180 cars for the Yangon-Mandalay Railway, which connects Yangon, Naypyitaw and Mandalay.

The new cars will shorten travel time on the 46-km Yangon Circular Railway from about 170 minutes to 110 minutes, and on the 620-km Yangon-Mandalay Railway from about 15 hours to around eight hours.

Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, Spain’s leading rail car manufacturer, better known as CAF, will manufacture the train cars using Japanese equipment for part of its electrical systems and deliver the cars from 2023 to 2025.

Myanmar has been overhauling its national rail system, neglected during decades of military rule, starting with two major arteries pivotal to economic revitalization.

Work started in February 2018 to upgrade the Yangon Circular Railway. In addition to cutting travel time, the overhaul aims to boost service frequency by 40%.

The project has fueled development along the line in anticipation of a jump in commuters.

The redevelopment will extend to government-owned tracts surrounding Yangon Central Railway Station, the main stop on the loop. Along with a new domed transport hub next to the existing station, the site will house high-rise office buildings and shopping spaces. 

The country also envisions establishing urban subcenters along the Yangon Circular Railway. 

Meanwhile the improvement of the 60-year-old line between Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, would be a boon to the northern Mandalay region, home to the country’s main producers of agricultural products and natural resources. The line also runs through Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw.

Credit: asia.nikkei.com

Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4) Built to Study Brahmaputra’s Ecosystem

Aligned to India’s Act East Policy, the North-eastern region of India, is reckoned as an expressway to South-East Asia. Weighed with this significance and potentiality, advancement in the region through scientific technology and innovation is the need of the hour.

Scientific research of Brahmaputra’s ecosystem through India’s first floating laboratory on boat –B4, is one of the three biotechnological missions undertaken by the Ministry of Science and Technology, in the North-eastern region of India.

Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4) is equipped to study and analyse the change in climate, the anthropogenic components, other topographical features such as soil, water, and the flora and fauna of the region.

“No major river for this size had been studied in this particular region. In future, such projects would be connected with other similar projects in the country,” said Dr.Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Science and Technology and Environment.

With the initial investment of Rs.50 crores dedicated to the project, B4’s operation would commence in later December. The early phase of research on this boat would be covering the region from Pasighat, Dibrugarh, Neemati, Tejpur and Guwahati in Assam.

Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4) is a two-storied barge, enabling scientists to govern thorough research of the factors impacting the river, and discovering valid means of mitigation as well. The second floor of the floating laboratory boat would be for educational purpose, making the local community cognizant of the current condition and characteristics of the ecosystem from a scientific perspective.

The officials and the scientists from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) have planned to connect the B4 barge with other small and mobile lab boats along the tributaries of the Brahmaputra. Apart from this, links with local research institutions and national laboratories have also been arranged to facilitate the research procedure of B4 by feeding it with adequate data.

Media Fosters Closer Ties Between Myanmar and India

India-Mayanmar Friendship Road

Viewing the integrative and comprehensive role that media plays in bringing the two countries closer, a two- day media interactive programme was conducted at Sangai Hall of Hotel Imphal in the capital of Manipur. The conclave was attended by high profiled dignitaries and media representatives of India and Myanmar in the quest to interact, engage and innovate ways to further the bilateral relations between India and Myanmar in a manner more amicable and cooperative.

The inaugural session was addressed by the Chief Minister of Manipur Mr. Biren Singh wherein he lauded his government’s initiative in introducing a bus service between Manipur in India to Mandalay in Myanmar in order to facilitate ease in people to people connectivity and smooth exchange of ideas and information. Further, Mr.Biren expressed “The External Affairs ministry has also been urged to take up necessary steps for visa issues by the respective embassies of the two countries.”

The notion behind the organisation of a media interaction programme between India and Myanmar was rooted in Mr. Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Myanmar wherein the idea was proposed by him. The conclave has been reckoned seminal in advancing the bilateral relations of both the neighbouring countries wherein the role of Media as an effective and a powerful tool in delivering good governance to the people has been given central importance to.

The cooperation and participation of Press Council of India and Myanmar Press Council at the event highlighted and corroborated the significance of media in democracy in building and sustaining relationships between people of both the nations, at the same time comprehending the political and economic climate of each other in an easier and more accessible manner.

The thrust of the conclave resided on exploring Media’s role in promoting ‘India’s Act East Policy’, ‘Capacity building of media personnel in Myanmar and India’ and ‘Media’s role in promoting connectivity and trade between Myanmar and India.’

China-Myanmar Corridor to Expediate Connectivity

Myanmar and China are on the threshold of forging closer ties as they progress further on the mutually beneficial path of development and advanced bilateral cooperation with one another.

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s agreement to China-Myanmar economic corridor ‘s construction as proposed by the Chinese counterparts reflect the strengthening and reaffirming of relations between the two countries whose friendship has stood the test of time.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reckons China’s proposal of China-Myanmar Economic Corridor as a vital step in fast-tracking the strategic and economic cooperation between Myanmar and China.

The corridor connecting Kumming (south-west China), Mandalay (Myanmar), Kolkata (India), and Dhaka and Chittagong (Bangladesh) is designed and planned to enhance and boost the connectivity between these four countries.

Myanmar holds a strategic geographical position with its close proximity to South-East Asia and China. Thus, Myanmar’s centrality in China’s Belt and Road Initiative is colossal. With the implementation of China-Myanmar corridor, China’s accessibility to the Indian Ocean through Myanmar would get expedited, and the route more convenient contributing to increased connectivity between both the countries. This in effect, would bolster development plans and needs of Myanmar, specifically its transport arrangements, electrical requirements and other infrastructural set-up. The corridor would also help Myanmar in becoming an important destination for China’s industries, leading to more jobs and better living standards eventually.

Chinese President Mr. Xi Jinping asserted Chinese efforts in supporting and solving regional conflicts in Myanmar and its constructive role in ensuring stability and peace in the country plagued by political fumes. The three-pillar giant cooperation pattern of the corridor was well received and appreciated by the State Counsellor as ‘well-matched with Myanmar’s national development plan’.

Japan to Aid North-East India’s Infrastructural Interests

PM Modi and Mr Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan and India – Mr. Shinzo Abe and Mr. Narendra Modi respectively

Japanese involvement in India’s keystone infrastructural projects has significantly contributed in supplementing India’s growth stories. Its efforts and interest remain relentless and persistent as it embarks upon developing and boosting infrastructural prospects in the North – East of India while leveraging on the North-eastern pool of resources and its proximity to the South-East Asian countries.

With India being weighed as the gateway to the South East region, and also actively interested in pursuing its Act East policy, Japan’s interest in providing its technical know-how, expertise and experience in the realm of connectivity based infrastructure: roads, railways, electricity, disaster management, forest resource management and so on, is loud and clear.

Against this backdrop, the Coordination Forum for Development of North – East has been set up by India and Japan to expedite infrastructural development in the North Eastern part of India, after the Ministry of Development of NorthEastern Region (DONER) recognizes the priority areas that require immediate attention and operations.

The India – Japan Cooperation Forum for Development of NorthEast included officials from external affairs, finance, road transport, power as important participants, along with Japan Embassy’s ambassador, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu and DONER Minister, Mr. Jitendra Singh, who inaugurated the forum.

The relationship between Japan and India has strategically gained significance and both the countries look forward to an engaging people-to-people and cultural exchange platform to seek, supplement and strengthen developmental opportunities while maintaining and building historic relations.

As per the International Community, Japan and India have the potential to be mutually-giving partners, with the surfeit of North-Eastern manpower available to boost Japan’s economy and Japan’s intrinsic and engaging interest in developing the NorthEastern part of India.

North-East’s Largest ISBT Ready to be Operational

Arunachal Pradesh

Another milestone has been clocked in the North-Eastern region of India: development of largest and most comprehensive Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Its operations are slated to begin by mid-August post its official inauguration by the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Mr. Pema Khandu.

Spaciously structured to deliver multiple amenities, the ISBT in the Lekhi village, Naharlagun has been constructed by the Department of Urban Development (UD) at a cost of Rs.2039 lakhs.

Translating this project into a holistic model of convenience and easy accessibility, this space is laden with special facilities such as private areas for breastfeeding mothers, special attention has also been paid to differently-abled people. Apart from this, segmented sections catering to taxis, private and government bus services have also been taken care of in an organized manner, along with neatly spaced out areas allotted for the parking of inter and intercity vehicles.

With the area spread of 86460 square feet, this inter-state bus terminal is being regarded as the largest ISBT in the Rainbow States of India.

Assistant Urban Programme Officer Mr. Yumlam Alam said,” We have constructed 5 rooms fitted with modern facilities which will function as tourist lodge. Besides, a dormitory room along with the office for tourist information officer has been constructed. Also, there will be restaurants, food courts, two ATM counters, newspaper/magazine shops, separate toilet facilities for ladies and gentlemen.”

The inauguration of ISBT would be a retreat from congested traffic ailments and aid in sculpting efficient transport services in the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Myanmar could Lead Maritime Trade of Asia

Myanmar could Lead Maritime Trade of Asia

Myanmar has launched itself on the global podium, carving an aggressive and assertive entrepreneurial spirit. Its resoluteness to connect and attract foreign investment prospects to revive its strained economic model is a quite palpable post its political transition.

The Port and the Shipping Industry is being rendered as the immediate and the most significant means to integrate Myanmar with the global economy, leveraging its strategic geographical placement in between the most populous and the second most populous country in the world; India and China.

Mr. Kyaw Myo, Deputy Minister Transport and Communications, remarked at the 15th ASEAN Ports and Shipping Conference 2017, “The development of ports and shipping industry would be a driving force for Myanmar’s integration into the global economy. Myanmar’s transport infrastructure had reached the low end of the Asian benchmark due to our poorly targeted investment for many years. Now, it is time to improve our transport infrastructure effectively and systematically with regional and international cooperation.”

The boom in the transport infrastructure, its revision and the revamping of guidelines are imperative primary moves to bring about improved connectivity – intra and inter-region, which would facilitate domestic growth, and advance integrative international possibilities. Apart from strengthening and developing infrastructure, it’s enabling and empowering prospects of job creation, easier access to regions, promotion of economic trade and prosperous growth potential, the facelift of transport framework has been rendered as an important segment in accelerating Myanmar’s economy.

In the recently conducted –15th ASEAN Ports and Shipping Conference 2017, discussions pertaining to the essential role played by maritime trade to revitalize Myanmar’s economy permeated the entire conference session. The need for an efficient and well-planned connectivity mapping the regions internally is essential for foreign companies to reach effortlessly and seek new market gains and collaborations. This is being embraced as the cornerstone development in affirming Myanmar as the new and captivating hub of Southeast Asia trade.

Carving out a mutually beneficial relationship with domestic and foreign ports, while engaging in port development activities, greater stress has also been laid on peripheral facets such as security challenges, environmental impact and navigation accessibility.

The Managing Director of Myanmar Port Authority – Mr. Ni Aung exclaimed, “As a member state, we participate in ASEAN initiatives for the acceleration of economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavors to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community by improving all aspects of transportation, specifically port development.”

The Yangon port, being the chief port of seaborne trade has been controlling 95% of the maritime export and import exchanges. Moreover, with nine ports handling seaborne and coastal trade, and with the construction of advanced terminals and multiple facilities in the areas of Yangon and Thilawa, the maritime cargo traffic has effectively enhanced.

Endowed with the capacity to accommodate as many as 36 vessels at the same time, the Yangon ports are being significantly harnessed to trade directly with 10 of the major trading economies like Malaysia, Iran, India, Singapore, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Thailand.

“Maritime transportation has been able to serve more than 85% of the nation’s trade,” said Mr. Myo Nyein Aye, deputy manager of MPA.

This indeed has been the gamechanger in boosting Myanmar’s economic landscape, fabricating and fueling an investment-friendly environment in building and developing ports. Relentless involvement of the private sector companies and aid from international finance institutions are deemed to further the prospects. As part of the current consultations on driving commerce in the country, employment of six new inland water port terminals has been ambitiously considered, with dependence on Myanmar’s new Investment Law for funds. The new ports include four on the Ayeyarwady River and two on the Chindwin River.

These ports will ensure rapid connectivity to more and bigger markets, and provide door to door system facility while experiencing reduced transportation costs and enlarged shipping capacity. In other words, these ports have been and will be the potential economy-transformers for Myanmar, generating jobs, accentuating regional development with improvement in living standards and bridging the gaps between the haves and have-nots.

Steering its course to growth, development and integration with the global economy, Myanmar’s sea and river ports have an absolute advantage of establishing Myanmar as the hub of trade in Asia.