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A road wakes up after 60 years

November 1, 2007
Should you fly over Tinsukia district, famous for its never-ending lush tea estates, in eastern Assam, near the tiny railhead town of Ledo, you may be lucky enough to notice a road that snakes from north to south like a swathe.

It is a road that does not seem to exist on any map.

That's because it has been closed since the 1950s.

This is the historic supply route, the Ledo Road -- more famously called the Stilwell Road -- from Ledo to Bhamo in Myanmar -- built in 1942, during the World War II, by American soldiers to provide a link between China and Burma, after the Burma Road had been cut off by Japanese soldiers.

When Lord Louis Mountbatten, India's last viceroy, once viewed this road from the air while flying over the Hukawng Valley, Burma, during the rains he thought it was a river but was told by an American soldier: 'That's not a river, it's the Ledo Road.'

The construction of this road was an enormously uphill and logistically a nearly impossible endeavour that has been compared to the building of the Great Wall of China and to think that the effort was in vain is almost unpardonable.

The good news is overriding commercial interests and some diplomacy may result in the re-opening of this road.

And it may once again find a place on maps.

Photograph: An aerial shot of the Ledo Road taken during World War II. Photograph: Courtesy, the US National Archives and Records Administration ( Information sourced from Wikipedia, US Nara and China-Burma-India Theatre

Also read: Futile bloodshed in Myanmar

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