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The Hindu
The Hindu
Kallol Bhattacherjee

Did not see junta’s army personnel inside Myanmar, says Indian MP after visiting rebels

An Indian MP who visited rebel held areas of western Myanmar said that the area that he visited is part of the Chin state of Myanmar that has been totally liberated by the Arakan army, one of the several ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) that is waging an armed struggle against the military junta of Myanmar.

K. Vanlalvena, member of Rajya Sabha from the Mizo National Front was driven around ten kilometres inside the Chin state where he inspected the condition of the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP), that is supported by the Ministry of External Affairs, and was hosted by a commander of the Arakan Army that has recently captured the route that the India-funded project is expected to take.

“They respected me because I am an Indian MP. I went there to inspect the road construction that has been delayed. In the beginning I thought that the Myanmar Government’s Army would be there. But I did not see a single person of the Myanmar Army. We saw only the Arakan Army,” said Mr. Vanlalvena stating that he had been trying to visit for a long time to inspect the condition of the KMMTTP. 

The member of Parliament said that his visit to the rebel-held areas of Myanmar was the result of efforts that stretched back at least two years. The Arakan Army snatched Paletwa, a strategically important township located on the Kaladan river, from the control of the junta’s forces in January. Ever since they have spread out from Arakan (Rakhine) to the Chin state’s border with Mizoram, which is more than hundred kilometres from Paletwa. 

The MP from India was hosted by Major Sardoewng of Arakan Army who was told, that “once the project is completed, it is going to benefit everybody” and sought cooperation from the armed group. The MP also met representatives of IRCON, a Government of India undertaking that is involved in the construction of KMMTTP and tried to ease tension between the Arakan Army and the IRCON’s representatives. 

Mr. Vanlalvena said that the Kaladan project has four components out of which the construction of the 106 km road connecting Paletwa with Zorinpui on India-Myanmar border has remained incomplete which is delaying the landmark connectivity project. A major issue hindering construction of this road is the worsening security situation because of the fighting between the armed ethnic organisations and the military forces of Myanmar junta. Apart from the Arakan Army, the Chin state has the Chin National Army, another EAO that is active in the region. 

An Indian cargo vessel had docked in Sittwe in May 2023 and that, Mr. Vanlalvena said was made possible as the upgradation of the port was completed by the Indian side. The second component of construction of a 158 km shipping route (which falls inside Myanmar) from Sittwe to Paletwa has also been completed said the MP from Mizo National Front. He also informed that the fourth component of 94km road link between Zorinpui to Lawngtlai inside Mizoram is “more or less” ready and highlighted the urgent requirement for building the road between Paletwa and Zorinpui as without that the Kaladan project will remain in limbo. 

“I asked them not to disturb the contractors and they have assured me that they never disturbed the contractor but that the contractors are generally afraid of them. But they promised that they will help and extend security to the Indian contractors,” said Mr. Vanlalvena. He however did not get into the complex question of how the violence between the EAOs and the Myanmar junta can be resolved in the near future as without that the security guarantee for the Kaladan project remains absent. 

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