Left or right? India, Myanmar, Thailand must pick side before highway can proceed

Vehicles travel on a road in Shillong, Meghalaya in India, where traffic drives on the left.
Vehicles travel on a road in Shillong, Meghalaya in India, where traffic drives on the left.

A trilateral highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand  promises major economic gains for the three countries, but the project must first negotiate a significant traffic barrier — the question of which side of the road vehicles will use.
In India and Thailand, traffic travels on the left, but Myanmar, where the bulk of the highway will be laid, drives on the right.
Deciding which side of the highway to use is one of the challenges for the trilateral project, said Ameising Luikham, Secretary of North Eastern Council of the Government of India.
The three-nation highway project is part of India’s efforts to improve transport links with ASEAN, its fourth-largest trading partner. The Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project in Myanmar is also one of key connectivity projects between the two sides.
“The (trilateral highway) project is slated for completion in 2017,” an NEC member told the Global New Light of Myanmar, adding the three-nation highway would be a vast improvement on existing road connections that have hindered India’s trade with ASEAN.
Following the decision by India and ASEAN nations in 2013 on further extension of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway to other member countries, the highway is also planned to expand to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, where cars also drive on the right.
The highway is set to start from Manipur’s Moreh on the Indian side and reach Mae Sot in Thailand after passing through Myanmar, where the it will traverse Tamu in the northwest and Mandalay in the country’s centre.
ASEAN is India’s fourth-largest trade partner, with a GDP of more than $2.2 trillion and a population of 620 million people. India and ASEAN had a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion, with bilateral trade valued at US$74 billion in 2013-2014.
India, the world’s largest democracy and second-most populous nation, is aiming to increase bilateral trade with the ASEAN community to $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2020.

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