That tourism would act as a crucial plank in India’s ‘Act East Policy’ is a thought that would find little traction beyond the boundaries of the Indian tourism industry. But it has come to assume a much greater role in strengthening bilateral ties between India and Myanmar. Indian tourists flying to Myanmar’s three international airports are now eligible for visa-on-arrival. Interestingly, the decision coincides with President Ram Nath Kovind’s five-day state visit to Myanmar. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale called it “one of the important outcomes of the Presidential visit.” “Visa on arrival will be given for Indians arriving by air. This will increase tourism and people to people exchange between the two countries,” he said. Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon and Mandalay international airports have been chosen as entry-points for visa-on-arrival facility.
Vikram Misri, Indian envoy to Myanmar has also pointed out that bus services from Imphal to Moreh and from Mandalay to Tamu are likely to be made operational soon. It will boost road connectivity and open up previously untapped modes of travel. Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project is nearing completion as well. (The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project is a USD 484 million project connecting the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe seaport in Rakhine State, Myanmar by sea.)
Looking at the larger East Asia connectivity, India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral highway is also expected to be completed by April 2021.
These developments would have a massive bearing on the movement of people in the region and add a completely new dimension of travel for the inquisitive Indian outbound. It may catalyse a bigger inflow of Buddhist pilgrims into the country; Buddhism is the dominant religion in the region. However, the biggest beneficiary of the enhanced connectivity may well turn out to be the Northeast – which would act as India’s gateway to Southeast Asia and beyond. It is a welcome development for India’s tourism.