NEW DELHI: A proposed railway line from Kunming in China to two ports in Myanmar — close to the India-funded Sittwe port — is being closely watched by India amid the Centre’s plans to connect corridors in the Bay of Bengal region as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy.

China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co (CREEC) recently launched a survey for the Muse-Mandalay-Kyaukphyu railway line, part of the China–Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) and the larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the region, EThas learnt from people familiar with the developments.

In October, Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the project, expected to be one of the largest road-and-railway projects in the Southeast Asian country that shares both a land and maritime boundary with India.

The project involves building a high-speed railway line from Kunming to Muse on the Myanmar-China border and from there on to Mandalay, terminating in Kyaukphyu port in Rakhine province. A railway line from the same corridor will branch out to Yangon port, one of the people told ET. China is said to view the project to connect the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone and the deep water port in Myanmar as something that would benefit both countries under the larger CMEC umbrella. Local politicians say the project could turn out to be a second ‘Hambantota’ and China could take over the ports in future if Myanmar does not earn sufficient revenue from it.

“The Kyaukphyu deep water port includes investments from Myanmar, and if the government doesn’t receive sufficient revenue from the port and it is not workable, I worry that the port will be like the one in Sri Lanka that China took over,” said U Ye Tun, a former MP from the region through which the railway project will run.

A few officials in the country are also sceptical about the future of the project.

“CREEC is conducting the survey and is also studying whether the railway will be operated jointly or if it should be run on a build-operate-transfer system for 30, 50, or 70 years. Once the survey is done and the government feels the project is feasible, then construction can begin,” U Htaung Shan Khan, general manager of planning and administration of Myanmar Railways told The Myanmar Times.

The plans for a China-Myanmar corridor intended to give Beijing access to the Bay of Bengal is being pushed amid a new connectivity corridor between parts of Southeast Asia and India.

A new bridge – part of the East-West Economic Corridor – between Thailand and Myanmar was recently opened, giving Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam access to the vast Indian market.

The East-West corridor is a project to build a large economic bloc along a 1,700-km land route from Vietnam to Myanmar via Laos and Thailand. From there, Southeast Asian states can gain access to India over the Bay of Bengal.

India has built a port at Sittwe in Myanmar, which will be linked to Mizoram via a multi-modal transport network. Besides, a highway connecting India with Thailand via Myanmar could become operational by 2020 and may be expanded to include Vietnam.

India and Thailand recently signed pacts for port connectivity, adding heft to its Act East Policy and the Indo-Pacific vision.

India is expediting a maritime connectivity link between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Aceh in Indonesia, where it will build a port in Sabang.

The country has major plans to expand its presence in the Ganga-Mekong region, which covers the five Asean states (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam). It also plans to connect Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand via the Bay of Bengal.