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After numerous delays, India and Myanmar have finally inked the agreement for the ambitious Rs 535.91-crore Kaladan project that is expected to benefit India economically and increase trade connectivity across the northeastern states.

Also, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Myanmar vice senior general Maung Aye, who is vice chairman of the state peace and development council, during discussions also decided to open up the existing border points between the two countries in a bid to promote trade.

The Kaladan agreement was signed in the presence of Maung Aye, who is the second highest ranking member of the ruling junta, and vice president Hamid Ansari. The agreement was finalised at the height of the stand-off between pro-democracy supporters and the military junta last October. However, the government, which was under tremendous international pressure to push the junta towards democratic reforms, had decided to wait till the right time to ink the final agreement. The project will provide an alternative route for transporting goods to and from the northeast.

The ambitious project includes the building of a waterway, roads and developing the Sitwe port linking Myanmar to Mizoram through the Kaladan river. The agreements that have been signed include the framework agreement on the construction and operation of a multi-modal transit transport facility, protocol on facilitation of transit transport and protocol on financial arrangements, joint administration and management.

The PM expressed his happiness at the signing of the Kaladan project Modal Transit Transport project. The issue of Myanmar’s move towards political reform also figured prominently in talks. Mr Singh also told the visiting general about the need for Myanmar to expedite the democratic process and making it broad-based to include all sections of society, including Aung San Suu Kyi. During the meeting with Mr Ansari, the Myanmar vice general conveyed the latest political reforms undertaken by his government including the announcement of referendum in May 2008 and elections in 2010.

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