National Maritime Seminar on India’s Maritime Infrastructure: Challenges and Prospects at Pondicherry University, on 23-24 February 2017
M. Mayilvaganan, Associate Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies
Abstract of Lecture/Presentation: Northeast India serves as the bridge between India and South East Asian nations, but currently one of the most backward regions of the country. Growth of trade, business and industry in the region is retarded by its location, ethnic unrest and poor connectivity. Mainland India’s connectivity to the region is limited and the Government of India has taken a policy priority to link it through maritime. New Delhi’s strategy is to develop alternative multimodal transportation from its East Coast ports to Northeast India through Myanmar by using the latter’s inland waterway and road, to reduce its dependency on the usage of roads via Siliguri Corridor, or Chicken’s Neck. In particular, the maritime connectivity between Kolkata and Sittwe ports in India and Myanmar, respectively, and road-inland waterway connectivity—Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transportation—at western Myanmar and NE India is envisaged. Although alternative modes are a welcome move, the poor land-sea connectivity and underdeveloped maritime infrastructure along East Coast of India is hindrance to India’s long-term strategy of enhancing physical connectivity to hinterland region and ASEAN to an extent. Apparently, the structural gap in terms of maritime and shipping infrastructure is quite visible.
With the SAGARMALA and maritime initiatives, the Government of India should act without delay to develop logistics at the ports, connectivity to the ports and industrialised cities and optimize the all-round maritime links with the eastern neighbours. The regular, efficient and affordable shipping between India and Myanmar is of critical importance. Well connected ports along with the efficiency of shipping services would be the major catalysts to for deeper engagement with the rest of the world. Also, it is important to point out that the Act East Policy would not be complete without physical connectivity to the North Eastern region of India and Myanmar. Against this background, the presentation/paper seeks to analyze some of the more important segments of the maritime infrastructure development and land-sea connectivity in India and to bring out its relationship with Act East Policy and national security.