Myanmar and India recently continued their bid for growing bilateral cooperation at a seminar convened to discuss opportunities of enhancing connectivity between Manipur in India and Sagaing Region in Myanmar and specifically advances to be made regarding trade at the Moreh (India)-Tamu (Myanmar) border.
The Myanmar-India Seminar-cum-Workshop on Issues of Formal and Informal Trade at Moreh-Tamu was convened on 17 March at the Border Chamber of Commerce in Tamu, Sagaing Region.
Discussions stressed the imperative of transforming informal trade into formal trade and the importance of established and enforced rules and regulations. To help in facilitating this transformation, some participants underlined the corresponding need for a Trade Office at both Tamu and Moreh led by respective Trade Commissioners to oversee the implementation of the new law-abiding trade regime.
Speaking at the gathering, Former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar, Gautam Mukhopadhaya, noted that there are currently some 62-64 items allowed under India-Myanmar border trade, but that trade is still being hindered in the absence of changes in policy consistent with most favoured nation trading policies.
Specific commodities discussed at the seminar included beetle nut, beans and pulses. Participants broadly agreed that the duty tax for beetle nut should be drastically reduced from its current rate of 40 per cent.
It was further noted that improved and increased trade into Manipur can have a trickle-down effect benefitting other northeastern states of India, thereby highlighting the regional impact of improvements at the Moreh-Tamu border.
Picking up on the theme of connectivity, several recommendations were put forth regarding the Moreh-Tamu crossing concerning improvements in cross-border transportation, tourism and cultural relations.
For starters, participants felt Indians should not be subject to a visa fee for entering Myanmar, while Myanmar nationals should be able to benefit from an e-visa service. And these improvements, it was argued, should be augmented by reliable air transportation linking Imphal, Kalay and Mandalay along with regular express bus service between Moreh and Imphal.
Finally, seminar participants called on greater bilateral support for travel to Bodh Gaya in India, where the Buddha is believed to have achieved Enlightenment.
However, for these visions to be fully realized, participants raised the need for the urgent upgrading of some 69 bridges along Kalay-Tamu road while simultaneously mitigating the number of checkpoints and addressing security along the trade and commuter corridor between Moreh and Imphal.
Educationally, universities and medical facilities from Manipur and Sagaing are urged to further strengthen cross-border relations and interconnectivity, with the suggestion that Manipur University Department of Economics set up a presence in Tamu.
And this approach in education is consistent with another theme that ran throughout the seminar, namely that regional governments and entities need to take the lead in as many of the issues raised as possible. To this end, it was argued enhanced cooperation between chambers of commerce in Manipur and Sagaing is absolutely essential, while regional SMEs must also seek to strengthen bonds.
The seminar-cum-workshop was jointly organized by Monywa University and Manipur University and was attended by representatives from the chambers of commerce from Sagaing, Mandalay, Tamu, Moreh and Imphal along with local traders, Tamu District departmental officials, a member of the Sagaing Parliament from Tamu District and other distinguished guests and speakers.