India’s Kaladan Project in Myanmar halted

GS  Paper III

News excerpt:

Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP) has faced a definite setback after an important town in Myanmar was captured recently by a rebel group.

About the Kaladan Project:

  • Kaladan project (estimated to cost around $500 million) is aimed at connecting the port of Kolkata with the port of Sittwe in Rakhine or Arakan State which would then be connected to Mizoram by road and the Kaladan river which flows by Paletwa.
  • The Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project was jointly identified by India and Myanmar to create a multi-modal mode of transport for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar as well as to the North-Eastern part of India through Myanmar. 
  • This project, which will connect Sittwe Port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border, is expected to contribute to the economic development of the North-Eastern States of India, by opening up the sea route for the products. 
  • It also provides a strategic link to the North-East, thereby reducing pressure on the Siliguri Corridor. 
    • In the absence of an alternate route, the development of this project not only serves the economic, commercial and strategic interests of India, but also contributes to the development of Myanmar, and its economic integration with India. 
  • Since the project is of political and strategic significance, it was decided to execute this project through India's grant assistance to Myanmar.         

Major reasons behind the delay:

  • The Kaladan project has been delayed for multiple reasons, including the Rohingya crisis that erupted in 2017. 
    • The Rohingya crisis is rooted in religious and ethnic differences between the junta in Naypyidaw and Muslim Rohingyas.
  • Due to COVID-19, most of the daily wagers had returned to their hometowns, owing to the pandemic, contractors had been facing hardships in assembling daily wagers for the project who were brought from other states in the country.
  • Both Chin and Rakhine states, through which the KMTTP runs, are insurgency-wracked and work on projects has been impacted by the poor security situation in the region.
    • The rebel Arakan Army (AA) captured the Paletwa township near Mizoram border in January.
    • The conflict between the AA and the Myanmar military junta is not based on religious differences but fuelled by a nationalist aspiration of the Buddhist Arakanese population of the region which has been demanding a confederated or independent status. 
  • The fight between the AA and the junta’s forces took a crucial turn on January 15 when the rebel forces captured Paletwa. 
    • This move has also roused concern of a tripartite conflict involving the junta’s forces, the AA, and rebels of the Chin State as Paletwa has been traditionally a Chin-majority township.

Present Status of the project:

  • The Kaladan project has two major components: Waterways component and road component. 
  • As on date, the waterways component has been completed. 
  • But the road component, which includes construction of a 109-km double-lane highway between Paletwa and Zorinpuri (Mizoram-Myanmar border), is still a work in progress. 
  • Until this highway is ready, northeast India’s access to the Bay of Bengal through Sittwe will remain incomplete.

Significance of the Kaladan Project:

  • Through this project, India hopes to reduce its dependency on chicken’s neck that lies between Nepal and Bangladesh thereby reducing the cost of transportation and time.
  • This multi-modal project is multifaceted. Involvement of both waterways and roadways will reduce the distance & the cost of transportation, and expand India’s trade with other countries. 
  • The biggest potential of the project lies in developing the NE, where the goods from North-East India can be directly transported through sea instead of taking it through roadways from other ports in India.
  • Trade between Myanmar and India will get a boost. Exports from India to Myanmar through this new shipping route may include construction materials such as cement, steel and bricks, among others, whereas India’s imports from Myanmar would be rice, timber, fish and seafood. 
  • The trade in rupees may help facilitate not only trade between Myanmar and India but also procurement and shipment of project goods which are needed for the implementation of Indian projects in Myanmar.


The Kaladan Project, aimed at bolstering connectivity between India and Myanmar, faces significant setbacks due to regional conflicts, Rohingya crisis fallout, and logistical challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. The recent capture of Paletwa by the Arakan Army further hampers progress, highlighting the project's vulnerability to geopolitical turmoil.

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