Foreign Policy Watch: India-Myanmar

Enhancing connectivity and regional integration: The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bilateral and Multilateral infrastructure projects in news

Mains level: India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, significance, challenges and way forward

Central idea

  • On the sidelines of the recently concluded 12th Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) meeting in Bangkok on July 16, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar met with his Myanmar counterpart U Than Swe to discuss regional connectivity initiatives, with particular emphasis on expediting the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT-TH) project.

What is the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT-TH) project?

  • The IMT-TH is a significant regional connectivity project that aims to establish a road network connecting India’s Northeast region with Thailand through Myanmar.
  • The primary goal of the project is to enhance trade, commerce, tourism, and people-to-people interactions between the three nations, promoting regional integration and cooperation.
  • Within India, the highway is expected to pass through Moreh, Kohima, Guwahati, Srirampur, Siliguri, and Kolkata, spanning a total distance of over 2,800 kilometers.
  • The longest stretch of the highway will be in India, while the most minor road section will be in Thailand.

Significance of the IMT-TH

  • Enhanced Connectivity: The IMT-TH project aims to improve connectivity between India’s Northeast region, Myanmar, and Thailand. By establishing a direct land route, it reduces travel time and transportation costs, facilitating smoother movement of goods, services, and people across the borders.
  • Trade and Commerce: The highway presents a major boost to trade and commerce among the three nations. It opens up new markets and opportunities for businesses, enhances the flow of goods and services, and contributes to economic growth in the region.
  • Tourism Promotion: With improved road connectivity, the IMT-TH project is expected to promote tourism between India, Myanmar, and Thailand. Easier travel and cultural exchange will attract more tourists, leading to economic benefits for the tourism industry in each country.
  • Regional Integration: The project fosters regional integration and cooperation between India, Myanmar, and Thailand. It strengthens bilateral and multilateral ties, encourages joint ventures, and promotes a sense of partnership for mutual socio-economic development.
  • Socio-economic Development: The IMT-TH project has the potential to bring socio-economic development to the regions it traverses. Improved connectivity can lead to better access to healthcare, education, and other essential services, uplifting the quality of life for local communities.
  • Strengthening India’s Act East Policy: The project aligns with India’s Act East Policy, which aims to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian countries and foster greater engagement in the region. The IMT-TH highway serves as a tangible demonstration of India’s commitment to regional cooperation and connectivity.
  • Regional Stability and Prosperity: By promoting economic cooperation and connectivity, the IMT-TH project contributes to regional stability and prosperity. Enhanced trade and economic ties are likely to reduce tensions and create a more conducive environment for peaceful relations among the nations involved.
  • Geopolitical Implications: The project has geopolitical implications as it connects the Indian subcontinent with mainland Southeast Asia. It can serve as an alternative trade route, reducing dependence on traditional maritime routes and providing strategic benefits to the participating countries.

Key Challenges and Bottlenecks

  • Road Network in Myanmar: While several sections of the highway have been completed or upgraded, several stretches still require progress. Urgent attention is needed to replace 69 bridges along the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa road, which has been delayed since 2015.
  • Construction Difficulties: The Yar Gyi road section, characterized by steep gradients and sharp curves, poses considerable construction challenges. Converting a 121.8-km portion of the road into a four-lane motorway between Kalewa and Yar Gyi will require more time than anticipated.
  • Security Concerns: The ongoing conflict between the Junta and ethnic armed groups in the Chin State and Sagaing Region of Myanmar poses a significant security risk for contractors, making the resumption of work uncertain.
  • Implementing the IMT Trilateral Motor Vehicle Agreement: Infrastructure limitations, bureaucratic hurdles, and security concerns hinder smooth cross-border transportation and the implementation of the agreement between the three nations. Obtaining permits and clearances remains challenging due to differences in vehicle movement rules and procedures in each country.

Way Forward: Key Factors for Successful Implementation

  • Infrastructure Development: Addressing Myanmar’s infrastructure limitations is crucial for the smooth movement of vehicles between India, Myanmar, and Thailand. Adequate financing and resource allocation are necessary to overcome these challenges.
  • Policy Coordination: Strengthening policy coordination with ASEAN regarding Myanmar is essential for a holistic approach to regional issues and ensuring a stable environment for connectivity projects.
  • Commitment to Democratic Transition: India’s commitment to supporting Myanmar’s democratic transition process and emphasis on peace and stability are vital for the region’s progress and prosperity.


  • The successful completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway holds the potential to enhance economic growth, regional integration, cultural exchange, and cooperation among the participating nations in the Mekong-Ganga region. By addressing the challenges and focusing on key factors, the project can contribute to peace, stability, and prosperity in the region, reinforcing the spirit of cooperation and connectivity among the nations involved.

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