India Suspends Free Movement Regime With Myanmar; Know Why

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday announced the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to scarp Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar to safeguard the internal security of the nation.

Calling it PM Modi’s resolve to secure our borders, Shah further said that it was aimed at preserve the demographic composition of India’s northeastern states adjoining Myanmar. “Since the Ministry of External Affairs is currently in the process of scrapping it, MHA has recommended the immediate suspension of the FMR,” he posted on X.

This would mean people living in border areas, who could cross over to India, will require visas.

This announcement came just two days after Shah said that India has decided to fence the entire 1,643-km-long India-Myanmar border, thereby putting an end to the Free Movement Regime (FMR) existing along the porous border. “To facilitate better surveillance, a patrol track along the border will also be paved,” the home minister had said.

He also mentioned that a 10-km section of the border in Moreh, Manipur, has already been fenced. Additionally, two pilot projects for fencing utilising a hybrid surveillance system are currently underway.

Stretching across Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh, the 1,643-km-long India-Myanmar border currently has the FMR in place. This policy was introduced in 2018 as a component of India’s Act East policy. The Free Movement Regime (FMR) permits individuals living near the India-Myanmar border to travel up to 16 km into each other’s territory without requiring any documentation.

The Imphal Valley-based Meitei groups have consistently called for fencing along the border, claiming that tribal militants frequently cross into India through the porous border. Additionally, they have accused smugglers of exploiting the unfenced international border to traffic narcotics into India.

In July last year, the state government provided data indicating that approximately 700 illegal immigrants had entered the state. Manipur shares approximately 390-km border with Myanmar. While attributing the ongoing ethnic violence in the state to the free movement of people from across the border, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh too urged the MHA to cancel the FMR along the India-Myanmar border and complete its fencing.

Additionally, Mizoram has witnessed a surge in anti-Junta rebels numbering in thousands since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021. The government estimates suggest that several thousand refugees have settled in various areas of Mizoram since the coup. Mizoram shares a 510-km-long border with Myanmar.


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