Stilwell Road (Photo Courtesy: gokumming.com)
Guwahati, Jul 30 : In what may change the face of landlocked border states of India’s Northeast, most of the region’s Chief Ministers have urged the Centre to reopen the historic Stilwell Road, linking India to China and Burma by land.
The historic road was built in 1942 by the Allied forces for swift passage of British and American armies during World War II. While there have been several attempts to reopen the road, the home ministry has always rejected it on the grounds of security. The bureaucracy fears revival of the road link may help rebel groups operating from Burma.
The long-pending demand was revived once again this weekend by Arunachal Pradesh CM Nabam Tuki, who urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revive the Stilwell Road, and open Indo-Bhutan trade through Tawang. Direct trade with Bhutan will help Arunachal Pradesh to tide over its perennial hardships due to blockades and agitations in Assam. The other northeastern states are forced to depend almost wholly on Assam for all links to the rest of India.
Mr Tuki told the PM that building a road from Lumla in Tawang to Tashigang in Bhutan will not only provide an alternate route for the people of Tawang to reach Guwahati and other parts of India, it will also facilitate tourism and other activities between the two countries.
Mr Tuki also urged opening of the Pangsau Pass to boost Indo-Burma trade. The 1,700-km-long Stilwell Road links three countries: about 1,000 km falls in Burma, 630 km in China and only 62 km in India.
It was named after American Gen. Joseph Warren Stilwell, who played a stellar role in the China-Burma-India region, on the suggestion of China’s President Chiang Kaishek.
It established communication between Chinese forces and US-British forces when the Japanese Imperial Navy was blocking all marine supply chains. Despite opposition from Winston Churchill and others over its heavt cost, General Stilwell persuaded the government to release funds. The road begins at Ledo in Upper Assam?s Tinsukia district. Most of the existing stretch is serviceable and only 160 km in Mynamar needs to be renovated.