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Assam: Attempts on to reopen historic road
K Anurag in Guwahati | September 15, 2006 14:39 IST
Last Updated: September 15, 2006 14:47 IST
After lying nearly forgotten for decades, the historic Stilwell Road -- which connects Ledo in Assam to Kunming in South China via Myanmar -- is suddenly back in focus.
The All Assam Students Union organised a well-attended march on Friday from Ledo, along a stretch of the historic road, demanding its reopening to connect the land locked northeast with South Asia.
The reopening of Stilwell Road has been a long-standing demand of many organisations in the region to link mainland India through the northeast with South China as well as other neighbours.
Apparently the major hurdle has been the lukewarm response of both Indian and Myanmar authorities as the road passes through heavily militant-infested Kachin area within Myanmar. Therefore, security concerns have been expressed.
"The historic road link has remained unused for the past six decades. This could be the window to the east for the country through the northeastern region. Its reopening may trigger a flurry of economic activities in the whole landlocked region," commented Dr Samujjal Bhattacharryya, AASU adviser, who led the march.
The chief ministers of the northeastern states and union ministers from the region have been demanding the reopening of Stilwell Road but in vain, as the Union External Affairs Ministry has remained lukewarm to the demand.
The AASU leader asks, "If India can have bus and train services with other neighbours, what is the problem in reopening Stilwell road to link the country with China via northeast?"
However, the ground reality is that between India and China lies 252 kilometers of unadministered territory, which is the base of a number of insurgent groups operating in India and Myanmar.
The 1100 kilometre-long Stilwell Road follows a serpentine route from Ledo to Kunming, the capital of Yunan province of China. It was a functional strategic road till 1952 as it was built during the Second World War.
However, the road was left unused after strains developed in India-China relations in subsequent years. It is now covered with thick hostile forest. The actual present condition of the road is not known, especially along the mountainous stretch.
Constructed during World War II, Stilwell Road travels through Assam and Arunachal Pradesh on the Indian side.
Insurgent groups are known to rule the roost over a huge area along the Stilwell Road. Political and security establishments of India and Myanmar apprehend that the reopening of the road will be a boon for militants' activities in the region.