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Trans-Asian Railway hope for Northeast

Ministry of Railway’s sanction for the final location survey of the 111-km-long Imphal-Moreh railway line has brightened hope for connecting the northeast region with Southeast Asia and Europe on the rail network.

Trans-Asian Railway

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  7 Jan 2022 4:17 AM GMT

Ministry of Railway's sanction for the final location survey of the 111-km-long Imphal-Moreh railway line has brightened hope for connecting the northeast region with Southeast Asia and Europe on the rail network. The Central Government decided to take it forward even though it was not found viable implies the strategic importance of this railway line as part of the Trans-Asian Railway network. India is a signatory to the Intergovernmental Agreement on Trans-Asian Railway Network signed in 2006 by member countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). When constructed the proposed railway line will connect the Indian railway network to the Trans-Asian railway network at the border town Moreh in Manipur. The Trans-Asian Railway network comprises about 1,25,000 km of railway lines in 28 members countries of UNESCAP. The connectivity of the region with the international railway network will help producers in the northeast region to explore the huge potential in export trade and commerce to ignite entrepreneurial dreams. The work of the 110.62-km Jiribam-Imphal railway line, currently under construction, is targeted to be completed in March next year. Expediting the railway connectivity to all state capitals in the region will be critical to realizing the dream of connecting the North-eastern states with the vibrant ASEAN economy. Apart from facilitating trade and commerce, the railway connectivity to the hill states on completion will be an added attraction to the tourism potential of the region. The Jiribam-Imphal railway line is an engineering marvel that includes the longest tunnel and 62 km of the total 111-km-long line that will go through 12 tunnels. The section also includes the tallest bridge pier in the world and is expected to attract more tourists to the region to experience an exciting train journey on this section. Lessons must be learnt from the experience of laying the Jiribam-Imphal line and completing the local survey work of the proposed Imphal-Moreh section at the earliest to avoid undue delay. Delay in execution results in cost escalation of projects and timely completion can unlock the additional expenditure for other infrastructure projects. The euphoria among the people over the announcement of projects of global importance and critical to ending the landlocked situation of the region fast evaporates when railway and highway projects are delayed, and the target date of completion is missed more than once. The Land Port Authority of India identified the land route connecting the Myanmar town Tamu on the India-Myanmar border to be the only feasible land route for trade between India and Myanmar and other ASEAN countries. The Moreh town is also on the Trilateral Highway connecting India, Myanmar and Thailand. Governments and people in the northeast region taking special interests in these projects can mount pressure on executing agencies to frequently review the progress and fast track the projects. The states in the region need to create an ecosystem for preparing the region to tap the full potential of trade, commerce and tourism when these connectivity projects are commissioned to end the landlocked condition of the region. State governments commissioning surveys and studies on export and import potential through the road, railway, river and sea routes with neighbouring countries will help traders, entrepreneurs, producers in the region to prepare their roadmaps. Peace and stability in the northeast region as well as in Myanmar are also vital for creating the ecosystem. The Central governments, state governments and people in the region need to mount pressure on insurgent groups to shun the path of violence and return to the mainstream and engage in peace talks so that the potential of transborder connectivity projects can be tapped optimally. Myanmar ensuring that Indian insurgent groups are not allowed to take shelter in the neighbouring country is important to bring the rebel groups to the negotiation table. Restoration of democracy in Myanmar will also determine the progress of trilateral highway as well as Tran Asian Railway connectivity between India and Myanmar. India remaining engaged with Myanmar on these issues is crucial for the northeast region to realize its dream of deriving benefits of trans-border connectivity. Considering that three decades have already elapsed since India adopted the Look East Policy which subsequently gained momentum with the adoption of Act East Policy it is time for the Central government to pay more attention to expediting the execution of infrastructure and connectivity projects in the region. The state governments in the region showcasing the transboundary connectivity projects pushed by the Central governments to attract industries to invest in manufacturing units can help generate huge gainful employment. The educated youth of the region will be inspired to take advantage of various schemes and subsidies extended to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and set up units with an eye on the markets not just within the region but beyond the international borders if are able to visualize the outcome of trans-border connectivity projects.

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