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May 1999

India's Commerce Secretary Mr. P.P. Prabhu visited Burma in October 1998
and the two countries agreed to opening up of additional border routes to
boost the ongoing Indo-Burma border trade. The two proposed additional
border routes are:

1) Champhai-Rhi boder route (which connects Champhai town in Mizoram State
of India and Rhi village in Chin State of Burma), and
2) Paletwa-Southern Mizoram (Paletwa in Rakhine State of Burma and Southern
Mizoram of India).

The two governments have been working for almost two years on the necessary
infrastructure to open the Champhai-Rhi. However, as Moreh-Tamu border
point is not functioning smoothly, Burmese side told the Indian authorities
in October 1998 (during the Commerce Secretary's visit) that the additional
border routes should be made operational only after the smooth functioning
of Moreh-Tamu route.

India provided Rs. 110 crores for constructing a road in Burma (from Tamu
to Monywa township in Saganing Division of Burma), which is 170 kms long.
According to field reports, black topping of the road has been completed
from Kalewa to Khampat. The progress from Khampat to Moreh border is
continuing at a good pace. The authorities say that the road will be
completed by 2000 as scheduled.

MIZZIMA had interviewed Mr. Zoramthanga, Chief Minister of Mizoram
regarding Indo-Burma border trade. The Chief Minister thinks that the
present Indo-Burma border trade is not benefited to the people of Mizoram.
His view is important as both border trade points, which are in
consideration to open soon are passing through Mizoram State. The following
is excepts from the interview with Mr. Zoramthanga.

Q:	What is your view on Indo-Myanmar border trade (through Mizoram State)?
A:	The border trade with Burma is that the Government of India and my
previous predicision Congress government, they do it not in the spirit of
our peace accord with the Government of India. Then in the peace accord,
the border trade goes in the way that the locally-produced commodities to
be sold to other neighbouring countries. It is for the border trade meant
for. But, now, it is the previous smuggled goods become legalised and that
is all. The manufactured goods from Delhi, it is sent to Burma. And the
foreign goods coming and smuggled from Burma to enter India that it has
been legalized. And that's all. Practically, Mizoram does not get any
benefit from this, except the roads, which have built for this trade. 

Q:	You said Mizoram is benefited only from road construction. Why Mizoram
gets benefit from the road constructions?
A:	It will be beneficial for the people of Mizoram. Because historically,
we are connected with Burma. Many of the people living in Chin Hill areas
in Burma are our brothers and sisters. We were the same ethnic group and
same tribe. And sometimes, same family. And so, historically also, we have
to have a good connection with the Chin Hills and Burma. For the
construction of the roads inside Burma to be undertaken with the help of
the government of India is really commendable on the part of the Mizoram

As far as the trade itself selling and buying of commodities is concerned,
Mizoram really does not benefit from it. It is only the industralised
people that the industries of the plain area and the traders in Burma side
are benefited. Not the Mizos. We, Mizoram people are benefited just because
of the road construction. Not from the trade volume itself. 

Q:	What is the position of your government position on the ongoing Indo
Myanmar border trade?
A:	Well, once it is started, it is good. Let it go. But, when the Burmese
government, the Burmese economy is in a position to sell their own products
here in Mizoram, it will be beneficial for the Burmese government as it is
for the people of Mizoram. And at the same time, when we can sell our own
products, when we can export our own products to Burma through these roads,
then it will be beneficial for Mizoram also. Now, it is not the goods of
Burma, it is the manufactured goods of other countries which come through
Burma. And manufactured goods of Delhi and plain people which go through
Mizoram. It is neither the exchange of products of Burma nor exchange of
products of Mizoram. It is only the manufactured goods coming from others
that pass through Burma and Mizoram.

Q:	Do you personally think it is a good idea, at this moment, doing
business with the Burmese military government by the Government of India?
A:	Well, that is for the Government of India to decide because they were
the policy makers in the field of politics and in the field of trade and
commerce. They know benefits and plus points and also minus points. But we
are only a state here in India and we are not to criticize or dictate or do
anything concerned with the foreign policy of India. But, our wish is that
democracy should prevail there in Burma. And there should be peace and no
human rights violations in Burma. That is our wish.

Well, in my personal view, as the world is having an inclination, not only
inclination and conviction on these methods, there should be democracy in
every countries. Not a military rule. That's also my idea. There should be
a democracy, peoples' elections to form the government. That is my idea.
And we should ask and we should pressurize all the countries that trample
or that appraise democratic movement whether in Burma or other places. That
is my idea.

Q:	What about drug trade? If you open the border trade, there could be a
free trade of drugs through these routes? 
A:	Drug trafficking is there. Certainly no doubt. But, because of the
presence of drugs coming in, if we simply close the roads, then it means
that we are deprived of all other benefits. It is just like a gun, a rifle
which can be used for a good purpose and which can be used for a bad
purpose. And when people live together, they commit adultery, they commit
theft, they commit murder, so, people should not live in community. If we
make a conclusion like that, that is not right. That should be goods coming
in and goods coming out to benefit the people. And at the same time, we
will have to prevent the drug trafficking whether on these routes or other
else. That is my idea.

To Be Continued-

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