India is geographically surrounded by the sea in three directions with a 7,500 km long coastline. However, its potential wasn’t properly utilized. Contrary to modern times, our glorious kingdoms such as Cholas leveraged their naval power on a global scale to India’s advantage.
Taking a leaf from the history, Modi government is finally leveraging the power of connectivity through waterways & sea routes. After taking on the operational ownership of Chabahar port in Iran, which is of strategic importance to us besides providing access to Central Asia, India is now ready to operationalize Sittwe port in Myanmar. The story of these two ports in many ways signifies how India’s global influence has been unfolding in scale and style.
Sittwe Port Myanmar- Significance for India
As the Ministry of Shipping has explained in its reply to the Rajya Sabha, “construction of Sittwe Port is part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project. Its objective is to create a multi-modal sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern parts of India to Myanmar through Sittwe port as well as to North-Eastern part of India via Myanmar.” The economic and geopolitical importance of Sittwe port along with other Indian projects in Myanmar can be explained as below:
- The initiative ensures the Bay of Bengal access to land-locked states in the North-East.
- Mizoram-Myanmar Kaladan road is already in progress. This will help to deliver the goods shipped from Kolkata to Sittwe port and further to the Mizoram border through road route, thereby connecting the north-eastern states in a way which is more prudent economically.
- It reduces the dependence of narrow Siliguri corridor for transporting all the goods to North-eastern states like Mizoram.
- With China advancing its plans to build a corridor in Myanmar, India too needs to strike a balance in the region.
Picture credit- civilsdaily.com
Chabahar Port Iran and Its Significance
India has already taken over the operation of Chabahar port in Iran on December 2018. The development is historic because of the following reasons:
- It is estimated that the Chabahar port will cut transport costs/time for Indian goods by a third.
- With Chabahar port, India is able to circumvent the route through Pakistan and trade with Afghanistanand Iran seamlessly.
- Iran plays a crucial role in safeguarding India’s energy interests. It should be noted that India was able to get a concession from recent American sanctions against Iran.
- Chabahar port has the potential of turning into a transit hub in the future that further strengthens the market access to Central Asia.
Picture credit- India Today
The other Efforts- Sailing Towards Glory
The other efforts on the ground will further facilitate the grand projects and maximize their potential in the future. Modi Government has envisioned revival of much-neglected inland waterways and the progress is also evident even within the smalltime frame of four years. For instance, the multimodal terminal on the river Ganga in Varanasi dedicated to the nation’s service (Read our article Developing India’s Inland Waterways: A Socio-Economic Revolution in the Making for more details). Modi Government’s mammoth effort of making the ports across the country a prominent growth engine is evident through the Sagarmala project. Due to the efforts of the Ministry of Shipping, cargo handling capacity of major Indian ports registered a substantial increase under the present government.
Considering all these concerted efforts post-2014, it can be said that India is on the road to regain its ancient glory and play a weighty geo-political role through sea routes. Apparently, that is the scale of vision and action Modi government is exhibiting.