New Delhi, May 25 : The cabinet is set to give its approval to a weekly bus service connecting the Manipur capital, Imphal, with the Myanmar city of Mandalay.
After the cabinet approval, slated for Thursday, a memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed between the two governments during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Myanmar by the end of this month. The service will be available on Mondays only. On both sides, it will be outsourced to private bus operators, though the fare has not been decided yet.
The final technical discussions were held between the two countries during a two-day visit to Myanmar by joint secretary of the ministry of road transport and highways, S. Narendra, on May 10-11.
There were a few minor problems though. In India, while we have right-hand driven vehicles, Myanmar follows the European model of left-hand drive. There are also major differences in traffic rules. So at the border, the passengers have to disembark and board a bus of the other country.
Despite the bus-service, there is no proposal to relaxing customs or immigration requirements. The passengers will have to carry valid passports. They shall be granted a one-month single entry visa on arrival at Tamu and Moreh border checkposts by immigration officials from the respective sides.
Baggage will be restricted to one suitcase weighing not more than 20kg and one handbag of average size. No commercial baggage cargo will be allowed.
Currently, Indian traders are allowed upto 16km from the border inside Myanmar. Myanmar traders, too, are allowed passage upto 16km inside India (Manipur).
This project has been in the pipeline for the past nine years. A resolution was passed by the Manipur Assembly in 2003 to introduce a regular bus service between Imphal and Mandalay.
The government of Manipur has been pursuing the issue with the ministry of road transport and highways ever since.
The Prime Minister, during his visit to Manipur in December 2011, announced that “as part of our Look-East policy, we will suitably take up the request for bus service between Imphal and Mandalay with the government of Myanmar”.
The government also plans to set up a development corridor connecting India with Myanmar. In that case, the service will be important since India and Myanmar share a long and porous border of over 1,640km as well as a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.
Four northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram share their border with the country.