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China’s frustration grows as Myanmar seeks Russian partnership for Dawei strategic Port Project

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China had previously conducted a feasibility study for the Dawei Port but redirected its focus to the Kyakphyu Deep Seaport near the India-built Sittwe Port.

Myanmar has recently chosen Russia for the construction of the Dawei deep seaport, a decision that has raised tensions with China, which had also shown interest in developing the port.

The port is located in the country’s east coast bordering Thailand. The project was initiated in 2008 as a jointly owned bilateral economic cooperation project between the governments of Thailand and Myanmar.

Discussions between Myanmar and Russia regarding the Dawei port project are currently underway as the Myanmar looks to strengthen its relationship with Moscow in order to counterbalance Chinese influence.

Proposed plans for the project entail the construction of a port with a capacity of 10 million tonnes and an oil refinery capable of processing 100,000 barrels per day. However, China is apprehensive that Russia’s involvement in Myanmar’s port sector may undermine its own projects in Kyaukphyu and potentially disrupt global trade dynamics in the region.

Seeking to bolster its ties with Moscow, Myanmar’s Junta is actively pursuing Russian investment not only for the port project but also for a special economic zone that includes an oil refinery.

China had previously conducted a feasibility study for the Dawei port but redirected its focus to the Kyakphyu deep seaport near the India-built Sittwe port. Myanmar’s pivot towards Russia has reportedly incensed China, with experts suggesting that Beijing feels sidelined by Russia’s participation in the Dawei project.

Strategic importance of Dawei Port

The proposed Dawei port, located in the Tanintharyi region on Myanmar’s east coast along the Andaman Sea, holds significant strategic importance. Serving as the gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries, it has the potential to become a crucial port for Thailand’s containerised trade due to its proximity to Bangkok.

After completion, Dawei will become one of Southeast Asia’s important ports. It will link countries in the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, without the need to pass through the Malacca Strait. It will have the capacity to handle over 100 metric tons of cargo annually. 

Growing Myanmar-Russia cooperation

Russia’s involvement in Myanmar goes beyond economic and defence cooperation. It extends to military training and equipment supply, with agreements worth millions signed between the two countries. Russia has offered assistance in sniper and drone training and is considering providing Small Modular Reactors to Myanmar.

Additionally, Russian cooperation with Myanmar in nuclear technology has led to the opening of a Nuclear Technology Information Centre in Yangon.

Implications for India

India may view Myanmar’s closer relationship with Russia favourably, especially considering China’s extensive involvement in Myanmar’s infrastructure and energy projects.

The increasing partnership between Myanmar and Russia aligns with India’s interests in maintaining stability in the Bay of Bengal region, where India has historically played a security role.

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