Asia Times Online is carrying a long article that overviews the construction of roads, and particularly the refurbishment of the Stilwell Road, linking India to China across the mountains of northern Burma. Little in this article will surprise New Mandala readers who closely follow developments in that part of the world.
The report notes that:
Of the three countries through which the Stilwell Road runs, it is Myanmar that is the linchpin of the project. Without its consent, the plan to link Ledo with Kunming by road is a non-starter. Unfortunately, it is Myanmar that has resisted the reopening of the Stilwell Road the most. This is partly because of the military junta’s traditional wariness of opening the country to outsiders. Besides, the road runs through territory controlled by Kachin rebels.
What is somewhat heartening is that the three countries are repairing the parts of the road that run across their territory. China’s segment has been upgraded, India’s small stretch is being fixed and China is said to be pitching in to renovate the long stretches in Myanmar.
This article, written by Sudha Ramachandran, “an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore”, gives a distant account of developments throughout the Sino-Indo-Burmese borderlands. What is clear from the general proliferation of articles on road construction in that part of the world is that World War II era roads have become a key part of the international mythology of contemporary infrastructure construction.
It is the nuts and bolts of current road construction that are worth much further and, dare I say it, scholarly enquiry. Really understanding the local and national politics of highly sensitive infrastructure projects is not a simple task. This is especially the case when the planned roads will link Burma to China through the Kachin State.
Across northern Burma, sections of the Stilwell Road, and other World War II era roads, are, I can confirm, definitely being refurbished. However, it remains to be seen what local agendas and priorities underpin these efforts to improve transport infrastructure.