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As Myanmar’s civil war halts key India-funded transport project, will China take advantage?

The India-led project aims to link Kolkata in India with the Sittwe seaport in Rakhine, primarily via the Bay of Bengal, covering more than 500km.

When the KMMT project was launched in 2008, it was scheduled to be completed in 2014 but was beset by multiple issues even before the military junta deposed the country’s elected government in 2021.

Still, progress continued on the project and many segments of it have been completed. In November, Indian officials claimed it could be wrapped up by the end of 2023.

However, a crucial 109km road between Paletwa in Myanmar and Zorinpui, at the border of the Indian state of Mizoram, is yet to be completed. Given the ongoing civil war in Myanmar, the chances of work resuming on this stretch are slim.

A large area in Rakhine state and southern Chin state has already been taken over by the Arakan Army. The Indian government issued a travel advisory earlier this month, advising all Indian nationals to avoid travel to Rakhine due to the conflict.

Following the disruptions to the KMMT project, the Indian government sent a delegation across the border for talks with the rebel group.

On February 29, an Indian delegation led by Rajya Sabha (Upper House) member K. Vanlalvena from the Mizo National Front met with senior officers of the Arakan Army inside Myanmar to discuss the matter.

Joseph Lalhmingthanga Chinzah, the general secretary of the Central Young Lai Association (CYLA) of Mizoram and one of the members of the Rajya Sabha delegation, told This Week in Asia that the project had come to complete halt on the Myanmar side.

“From the Mizoram side, the project was completed in 2023 and the public is using it efficiently. However, there is no work done from across the border,” Chinzah said.