India, China and Myanmar should establish a joint dialogue mechanism to restore the Stilwell Road connecting the three countries to revitalise trade in the region, Chinese media said today.
“The Stilwell Road was called the Ledo Road, but renamed after Stilwell at the suggestion of Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek. Ledo, a small town in northern India, is the starting point of this legendary road,” an article in the state-run Global Times said.
From Ledo to Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan province, the road is 1,800-km-long.
It is obvious that the road that connects China, India and Myanmar bears economic significance for South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, it said.
“Driven by the economic potential and the need to reinforce transport network in the region, an increasing clamour of voices in China, India and Myanmar is calling for the restoration of the road. It is time for the three countries to deliberate over project,” it said.
“The road is not intact. China has completed the reconstruction of the section from Kunming to the Sino-Myanmese border and connected the road to China’s well-developed road system,” it said.
“With China’s help, Myanmar has also accomplished the section from the Sino-Myanmese border to Myitkyina.
However, the sections from Myanmar to India and within India are barely usable. Some parts have already been deserted due to bad conditions,” it said.
“Myanmar has started to renovate part of the road, but the reconstruction is not smooth due to lack of funds and technologies and the presence of Indian and Myanmese ethnic insurgents in the area,” it said.
“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,” it said.
“But India has toned down the two concerns because New Delhi 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.
Thus, recently Assam has started to fix part of the road,” it said.
China as a “more developed country” should play a major role in the reconstruction work, it said.
“All three countries should set up a joint dialogue mechanism, in which their concerns and problems can be put on the negotiating table, including how to make peace with ethnic insurgents, and the three countries can find out solutions together. China can be the initiator of the communication mechanism,” it said.
“The restoration of the Stilwell Road will revitalise the promising path, which will interconnect Southwest China, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and merge the region into an emerging market. The ethnic groups living in this area can seize the chance and prosper,” it said.