- The Chief Minister of Manipur has requested the Union Home Ministry to revoke the free movement policy along the India-Myanmar border.
- Currently, this system permits residents of the border regions of India and Myanmar to cross into the other country’s territory without a passport for up to 16 kilometers.
Key Points of the Concern Voiced by Manipur’s CM
The Manipur government has asked the Union Home Ministry to revoke the free-flowing policy along the border between India and Myanmar. This implies that there are worries about the arrangement’s potential for abuse and its security.
- Border fencing: The requirement to finish the fencing along the India-Myanmar border is stressed repeatedly. The 60 kilometers of this international border in Manipur are purportedly being fenced off by the Union Home Ministry.
- Influx of undocumented immigrants: The Chief Minister has voiced worry over how to handle the inflow of unauthorized immigrants. This implies that there might be problems with illegal immigration from Myanmar into Manipur.
- Security Personnel Deployment: According to the Chief Minister, security personnel have been stationed within Indian territory rather than at the border’s zero point, where they should be.
- Ethnic conflict: On May 3, ethnic conflict which allegedly implicated illegal immigrants from Myanmar erupted in Manipur. Demands for Scheduled Tribe status and conflicts within various tribes inside the state appear to be factors in the violence.
- Concerns about Poppy Cultivation and Deforestation: The statement also makes reference to worries about illegal immigration from Myanmar, which is significantly responsible for changes in some regions’ demographics as well as illegal opium poppy cultivation and deforestation.
- Allegations of Arms Supply: Concerns over security and insurgency-related issues have been raised by claims that terrorists in Manipur have obtained weapons from Myanmar.
What is the Indo-Myanmar Border’s Free Movement Regime?
- Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh make up the four states that make up the 1,643 km long border between India and Myanmar.
- The FMR is a mutually agreed-upon agreement between the two nations that enables tribes residing on either side of the border to cross into the other country for up to 16 kilometers without a visa.
- In 2018, as part of India’s Act East policy, and as diplomatic ties between India and Myanmar were improving, the FMR was put into effect.
- In fact, the FMR was supposed to be implemented in 2017 but was postponed because of the Rohingya refugee crisis that broke out in that August.
Why did the Free Movement Regime idea come about?
- India shares complicated borders with both Bangladesh and Myanmar.
- In 1826, the British decided to draw the border between India and Myanmar without consulting the local populace.
- People of the same race and culture are divided into two nations by the boundary. Even today’s IMB reflects the boundary established by the British.
- Strong links between ethnic groups and families exist in the area. There are settlements in Manipur’s Moreh area where some dwellings are in Myanmar. The border cuts across the Longwa village chief’s home in Nagaland’s Mon district, dividing it in half.
- The FMR was intended to encourage local trade and business in addition to encouraging human contact.
- Through customs and border haats, the region has a long history of trans-border trade.
- Such exchanges are essential for the maintenance of local livelihoods given the low-income economy of the area. The towns in India are more conveniently located for commerce, education, and healthcare for the border residents of Myanmar than are those in their own nation.
Should the FMR be removed?
- The regime has occasionally been reviewed, and most experts concur that the FMR needs stronger control.
- India halted the FMR in September 2022 as the refugee crisis in Myanmar worsened and the number of people fleeing their country rose.
- The total elimination of the FMR, though, would not be a bad thing.
- The challenges the local populace would encounter in that scenario have been highlighted by experts.
- Before the Covid-19 epidemic, villagers appeared to be benefiting from dual citizenship and had the freedom to go across the border thanks to the FMR.
- Locals in the Phek area of Nagaland also claimed that the Myanmarese peasants preferred to travel to the Indian side for trade, healthcare, and education. The closest town in Myanmar is far distant for them.
- Therefore, the locals might not be in favor of completely repealing FMR.
- The residents of Moreh argued against “complete fencing” because portions of their ancestral lands were on the Myanmar side, despite the Meiteis of Manipur’s desire for the border to be sealed.
- It is essential for India to approach the problem by following a “killing the snake without breaking the stick” strategy because of the shifting socio-politico economic conditions in Myanmar, the dynamic demographic profile, illicit activities, and border crimes along the IMB.
- By concentrating on infrastructural development and regulatory systems, the focus should be on updating FMR and converting informal to formal trade.
- The best way to handle international boundaries is for neighbors to work together to protect their shared borders. Political and diplomatic measures need to be properly developed for this cooperation to materialize.