India and Myanmar may soon sign an initial agreement for starting a bus service connecting the two countries through the north-eastern state of Imphal, aimed at improving people-to-people contact and bilateral relations.
The service is likely to start from October and would cover a distance of 579 kilometres between Imphal and Mandalay in about 14 hours, according to Indian media reports.
Though the fare is yet to be finalised, government officials said it would be kept below INR2,000 ($33). To facilitate travellers, visa-on-arrival would be offered on both sides.
“It was agreed that both sides will work towards signing a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) at the earliest on mutually convenient date and venue in order to facilitate early starting of the Imphal-Mandalay bus service,” India’s Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said in a statement.
A delegation led by Niraj Verma, joint secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways visited Nay Pyi Taw recently, to attend an Inter-Ministerial Technical Level Meeting to negotiate and finalise the MoU and related protocol agreements for the proposed bus service.
The text of MoU, which was finalised in the bilateral inter-ministerial technical level meeting on September 17, 2012, was reviewed clause by clause by the representatives of the two delegations and adopted during the meeting, the statement said.
The weekly cross-border bus service is set to boost India’s newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of increased connectivity with neighbouring South Asian countries.
India’s Road Ministry had been in discussions with the Transport Planning Department of the Ministry of Rail Transportation of Myanmar for introducing the cross border bus service.
Currently, there is no direct road link between India and Myanmar. From Delhi, one has to first fly to Bangkok and then to either Yangon or Nay Pyi Taw to reach Myanmar.
The project is expected to boost economic activity in the region, according to officials.
Depending on the response, the service would be scaled up and at a later stage will be extended to allow freight movement as well.
Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh was also keen to sign the agreement for launching the bus service during his visit to Myanmar in 2012 but it did not fructify as the deal could not be finalised on time.
The Indian government is also assisting Myanmar to upgrade a 70km stretch of road between India’s Kalewa and Yargyi in Myanmar.