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India begins work on road to Kunming

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India has commenced rebuilding its section of the Stilwell Road, a road that will link southwest China and northeast India and whose completion is expected to be a major boost to trade and tourism between the two Asian powers.

A former World War II supply route, the road is named after US General Joe Stilwell, who oversaw its construction in 1944. The 1,700-kilometer (1,000-mile) road once connected Kunming with the city of Ledo in Assam state, with most of the road passing through northern Myanmar. Only 61 kilometers of the road are in India, which had been reluctant to renovate the road out of security and drug trafficking concerns.

China has already completed renovations on its 600-kilometer segment, which has been upgraded to a six-lane expressway. China has also been assisting Myanmar with construction of its 1,000-kilometer segment of the road, which would be the first viable overland transport link between China and India.

In recent years China and India have emerged from decades of icy relations with a new to increase economic and governmental interaction. Progress has been made on some unresolved border issues and bilateral trade has rocketed from a paltry US$2 billion in 1999 to around US$18 billion in 2005.

Goods transported between the two countries via the renovated road would take two days to make the trip. At present, sea cargo between must pass south of Singapore and through the Malacca Strait. Reopening the Stilwell Road would cut the distance between China and India by 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles).

The primary variable in the road's renovation is Myanmar. It is still unclear both how much in terms of resources Myanmar is willing to put into its segment of the road and how much China and India will step in to expedite completion. China is especially keen to see the road opened and will likely do all it can to open this backdoor to India sooner rather than later.

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I think it is the most brilliant idea in the century to reopen the old Stilweel road. it is definitely going to improve relations between the two world giants

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