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April 4, 2008

India strikes transport deal with Myanmar

India has signed a $120-million transport agreement with neighbouring Myanmar as Delhi continues to boost economic ties while it urges the Myanmar military government to open dialogue with the Opposition.

The transport deal will see part of north-east India getting linked to Myanmar’s Sittway port on the Kaladan river via road and river connections, facilitating flows of goods to and from India.

The agreement, signed by India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari and General Maung Aye, Myanmar junta’s the second most powerful figure, allows India the right to "build, operate and use" the port of Sittwe, strategically located in the Bay of Bengal.

Once the Sittway port has been developed, and the Kaladan river made navigable all the way up to neighbouring India's north-eastern Mizoram state, India will be able to upgrade highways connecting Mizoram with the rest of the country to boost trade.

The neighbours also agreed to take steps to open up existing border points in India's north-eastern states for regular trade.

India’s move came despite international pressure to isolate Myanmar for its rights record. India has been seen trying to improve ties with the Myanmar junta apparently to check and balance China’s growing influence in Myanmar.

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