New Delhi: Dhubri-Phulbari bridge, the longest one over the Brahmaputra, which has been cleared for construction, will not only reduce travel time from Assam to Meghalaya from hours to minutes but will become a hub for the giant trans-Asian corridor that will connect Bhutan and North East with Dan Nang in faraway Vietnam.
Planned to be completed by 2026-27, the bridge would be India’s longest bridge and would span more than 19 km.
This bridge, which has been proposed at a cost of about Rs 5,000 crore close to the Bangladesh border, will connect Assam’s Dhubri with Meghalaya’s Phulbari.
This alignment will further augment the transport network for the region by providing the shortest link between the western regions of Meghalaya as well as Barak Valley region of Assam and southern states in North East, namely Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura and the rest of the country, including the ports of Kolkata.
The giant project showcases the growing strategic partnership between India and Japan, balancing China’s inroads in the region. The ambitious undertaking will also impact several ASEAN countries, especially Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos besides Vietnam, according to a report.
This effort will merge two parallel initiatives – the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the East-West, Economic Corridor (EWEC) marshalled by Japan in partnership with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
The joint foray is a fusion of India’s Act East Policy and Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy. From the Indian end, the trilateral highway starts in Manipur from the border town of Moreh.
On entering Myanmar, it heads for Mandalay, the historic city, on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, 471 km away, the report said.
From Mandalay, Myanmar’s last royal capital before British annexation, the highway heads towards the Thai border. Myawaddy is the last destination on the Myanmar side.
Myanmar is emphatic that Myawaddy – the gateway to ASEAN – has huge potential as it can be easily connected with the Yangon deep water port, as well as the Andaman Sea.
The 1,360-km route terminates at Mae Sot in Thailand, 20 km away to the North East.
Myawaddy is the junction of the two projects. It is the starting point of the East West Economic Corridor (EWEC), which heads towards Da Nang in Vietnam – a port city on the South China Sea.
During the Vietnam War, today’s Da Nang International Airport had become one of the world’s busiest aircraft hubs from where the US Air Force launched its infamous bombing campaigns.
The 1,450-km EWEC route passes through Thailand’s Province of the Mukhandan – the gateway to Laos, which is connected by the 1.6-km-long Second Thai-Lao friendship bridge over the Mekong, built with Japanese assistance.
From Savannakhet in Laos, the next strop in the corridor, the passage heads east towards Da Nang, 486 km away.
On the way, the Japanese have also been involved in constructing the 6.28-km Hai Van tunnel, the longest in Southeast Asia, which links Hue, a city in Central Vietnam, with Da Nang.
China, on its part, is building a railway that will connect Kunming with Thailand via Laos and has also signed the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, which ropes in the port of Kyaukpyhu in the Bay of Bengal.