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Construction : Web Exclusive | May 2013 | Source : Construction Update

India yet to decide on opening Stilwell Road

Retired Gen JJ Singh, former chief of India’s army and now governor of the frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh, has strongly pushed for reopening of the World War II-era Stilwell Road as potential commercial benefits are weighed against national security concerns. He argues that it should be opened to enable trade and traffic with Burma and China.

Singh said that China has developed its part of the road. They are helping Myanmar develop its bit of the road as well. So there is no point in India not developing its own part of the road, Singh said recently while addressing a conference on India’s 'Look East' policy at the National University of Singapore. Singh, whose state hosts about 27 km of the old road, says his logic is simple: Only 61 km of the historical road passes through India, so it does not really matter whether India reopens the road or not.

Chinese goods and people will be able to reach the Indian border in any case once the Burmese part of the road is opened. India has been reluctant to open the Stilwell Road due to both military and commercial considerations. Indian generals fear that it could be an 'asset; for the Chinese in the event of a war between the two Asian giants.

In November last year, retired Lt-Gen JR Mukherji opposed the opening of the Stilwell Road at a conference in Calcutta. A former chief of staff of India’s eastern command, Mukherji stressed that the road would give the Chinese an advantage in the event of armed conflict. Many other military commanders support Mukherji’s assessment and say the Chinese could use the road to move troops and supplies, slicing through India’s defenses in Arunachal Pradesh if war were to break out.

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