The Supreme Court of India ruled yesterday that work could continue on the 1,360km India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway. Work had been halted while a lower court in the state of Manipur heard a case brought by one of the contractors on the project.
Sharad Arvind Bobde, the chief justice of India, said the work should go on in view of the importance of the project. However, he added that, in the interest of justice, the Manipur High Court should resolve its case "within a period of two weeks".
Attorney General KK Venugopal had earlier told the court, "We have received a letter from our ambassador in Myanmar saying that China completes its projects swiftly and on time but India’s credibility is under question."
The idea for a modern, serviced four-lane motorway between Manipur, in the extreme northeast of India, and Mae Sot in northwest Thailand was first proposed in 2002 as a way of boosting India’s trade with the Asean nations. The road would pass through Mandalay and Yangon in Myanmar.
An intergovernmental deal was signed in 2016, and a contract to undertake the work was awarded to Niraj Cement Structurals and Manipur Tribal Development Corporation in 2017. However, these were terminated the following year, which gave rise to the legal dispute in Manipur.
India is undertaking two work packages on the highway in Myanmar: a 121km section between Kalewa and Yagyi, and 69 bridges and an approach road for the 150km Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa section.
No work on the bridges has yet been undertaken.
Image: The Trilateral Highway will provide an upgrade to Myanmar’s basic road system (Dreamstime)