Free Movement Regime to end at Myanmar border

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Free Movement Regime to end at Myanmar border Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • Indo-Myanmar border
  • Free Movement Regime (FMR)
  • News Summary: Free Movement Regime with Myanmar
  • Key highlights

Why in news?

  • As per the govt officials, the Union government is all set to scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR) along the Myanmar border.
  • People living in border areas, who could cross over to India, will soon require visas.

Indo-Myanmar border

  • About
    • The Indo-Myanmar border runs for 1,643 km.
    • The States of Arunachal Pradesh (520 km), Nagaland (215 km), Manipur (398 km) and Mizoram (510 km) have common border with Myanmar.
  • Demarcation of Indo-Myanmar border
    • Out of 1643 km, demarcation of 1472 km has been completed.
    • There are only two un-demarcated portions along Indo-Myanmar:
      • Lohit sub-sector of Arunachal Pradesh-136 km
      • Kabaw valley in Manipur – 35 km.
  • Security Concerns along the border
    • Secessionist movements
      • The movement for Greater Nagaland comprising of areas in both India and Myanmar has dramatically destabilised the border.
    • Support to insurgents and terrorists in India
      • Many of the Insurgents in the North Eastern States of India have ties with groups in Myanmar who provide political backing, economic assistance, logistic support, military training or arms supplies.
      • The porous border also helps provide safe havens to the insurgents.
    • Narcotics smuggling
      • India is located near the Golden Triangle of drug production in the East (Northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar), which has resulted in rampant drug trafficking through the country.
      • Trafficking of synthetic drugs to and from Myanmar is a concern.
  • Border management
    • Security force along Indo-Myanmar border
      • Fondly known as “Friends of the North East People”, the Assam Rifles is deployed in the North East for guarding the Indo-Myanmar Border.
    • Modern Weapons for surveillance and border security
      • Modern weapons and equipment like Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Battle Field Surveillance Radar (BFSR), Laser Range Finder etc. are being used for border security.
    • Border Fencing
      • In order to check the problem of infiltration, smuggling of contrabands and illegal activities in the Indo-Myanmar border area, the Government of India has initiated work to fence the area.
    • Comprehensive Border Infrastructure Project
      • To improve border infrastructure on India-Myanmar Border, a comprehensive border infrastructure project is being undertaken.
    • Integrated Check Posts (ICPs)
      • The government of India decided to set up Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at major entry points on our land borders.
    • Border Area Development Programme (BADP)
      • Various developmental works in the border areas have been undertaken by the MHA under the BADP as part of a comprehensive approach to border management.

Free Movement Regime (FMR)

  • About
    • The Free Movement Regime is a pact between India and Myanmar that allows tribes living along the border on either side to travel up to 16 km inside the other country without a visa.
    • The FMR was implemented in 2018 as part of the government’s Act East policy at a time when diplomatic relations between India and Myanmar were on the upswing.
      • In fact, the FMR was to be put in place in 2017 itself, but was deferred due to the Rohingya refugee crisis that erupted that August.
  • Rationale behind FMR
    • The boundary between India and Myanmar was demarcated by the British in 1826.
    • This effectively divided people of the same ethnicity and culture into two nations without seeking their opinion.
    • Hence, need was felt to enable ethnically similar communities living across the borders to move freely without the need of a visa.
    • The FMR was supposed to provide impetus to local trade and business.
      • However, it has been criticised for unintentionally aiding illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and gun-running.
  • Current status
    • However, the agreement has been defunct since 2020, first because of the Covid pandemic.
    • After the military coup in Myanmar in 2021 and the continued escalation of its refugee crisis, India suspended the FMR in September 2022.
      • After the military coup, there was an influx of undocumented migrants.
      • Over 40,000 refugees took shelter in Mizoram, and around 4,000 refugees are said to have entered Manipur.
      • The migrants belonging to the Kuki-Chin-Zo ethnic group share ethnic ties with communities in Mizoram and Manipur.

News Summary: Free Movement Regime with Myanmar

  • As per the sources in the government, Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar will end soon.
  • The Centre has decided to start the tendering for an advanced smart fencing system for the entire India-Myanmar border.

Key highlights

  • Rationale behind this step
    • Currently, FMR is used by insurgent groups to carry out attacks on the Indian side and flee towards Myanmar. This has to stop.
    • India also wants to put a brake on the influx of illegal immigrants, drugs and gold smuggling.
    • Earlier in September 2023, Manipur CM had urged the Centre to permanently wind up the FMR to curb illegal immigration.
  • Challenges
    • There are apprehensions that States such as Nagaland and Mizoram may oppose the move.
    • However, it should be noted that border security/management is in Centre’s domain.
      • It may take note of concerns of these states but the final decision is of the Union government.

Q1) Which India States share boundary with Myanmar?

Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram share international boundary with Myanmar. Both countries share a heritage of religious, linguistic and ethnic ties.

Q2) What are Integrated Check Posts (ICPs)?

Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) are entry and exit points on India's international land borders. They are trade facilitation centers that help boost bilateral trade and improve the movement of passengers across the border. ICPs are designed to facilitate the secure and seamless movement of people and goods across borders.

Source: Free Movement Regime to end at Myanmar border | Indian Express | Hindustan Times