'Time for India, China, Myanmar to revitalise Stilwell Road'

Beijing: It is time for India, China, and Myanmar to develop a joint dialogue mechanism for restoration of Stilwell Road, built during World War II that connects India's northeast with China via Myanmar, says an editorial in a leading Chinese daily. "It is time for the three countries to deliberate over a project," the editorial in the Global Times said, referring to the road built during the early 1940s, also called the Ledo Road. According to the daily, restoration of the Stilwell Road will revitalize the "promising path, which will interconnect Southwest China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, and merge the region into an emerging market", it says, adding that it would also benefit the ethnic groups living in the area. The road bears economic significance for South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia, the daily said. According to the Global Times, China had completed the reconstruction of the section from Kunming to the Sino-Myanmese border, while Myanmar has also completed the repair of its section to the Sino-Myanmese border with Chinese help. "However, the sections from Myanmar to India and within India are barely usable. Some parts have already been deserted due to bad conditions," it says. "India is worried about the reconstruction of the road for two reasons. First, the road starts from Assam, a state where local militants have become increasingly active. Second, China-made products can flood into the Indian market through the road," the editorial said. But it says that India "has toned down the two concerns" as it has adopted a "Look East policy, and the process of advancing the strategy requires the stability of northern India, in which a well-functioning road system matters a lot". According to the editorial, the Indian economy has entered a stage of rapid development, and its rich deposit of resources in northern India demands a convenient and efficient transport system to draw in more foreign investment.  "A diversified investment environment will relieve India's worry about the influx of Chinese products," it further said. The editorial went on to say that all three countries should set up a joint dialogue mechanism, in which concerns and problems can be put on the negotiating table, including how to make peace with ethnic insurgents, and to find out solutions together.  It suggested that "Considering that China is a more developed country than India and Myanmar, it should play a major role in the reconstruction work". The 1,726-km-long Stilwell Road starts in Assam, India, and cuts through the Pangsau pass in Myanmar to Kunming in South China. It touches almost all the important Southeast Asian capitals. The road was built by Chinese labourers, Indian soldiers, and American engineers, and named after American General Joseph Stilwell who led the task and completed it in 1945 after three years of hard work. The Stilwell Road on the Indian side is about 61 km. The major stretch of 1,033 km lies within Myanmar, while the section in China is 632 km.