Union Home Minister Amit Shah on 8 February said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided that the Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar be scrapped.
Calling it PM Modi’s resolve to secure our borders, Shah said that the decision was taken in order to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India’s North Eastern States bordering Myanmar.
Taking to X (formerly Twitter), Shah wrote, “Since the Ministry of External Affairs is currently in the process of scrapping it, MHA has recommended the immediate suspension of the FMR.”
This announcement came just two days after Shah said that India has decided to fence the entire 1,643-km-long India-Myanmar border. The FMR allows people residing close to the India-Myanmar border to venture 16 km into each other’s territory without any documents. “It has been decided to construct a fence along the entire 1643-kilometre-long Indo-Myanmar border. To facilitate better surveillance, a patrol track along the border will also be paved,” Shah had said.
The India-Myanmar border, which passes through Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh had FMR which is now scraped. It was implemented in 2018 as part of India’s Act East policy. Fencing along the border has been a persistent demand of the Imphal Valley-based Meitei groups which have been alleging that tribal militants often enter into India through the porous border.
Reactions from North Eastern border states:
The Meitei groups also allege that narcotics are being smuggled into India taking advantage of the unfenced international border.
When the India had taken the decision to fence the India-Myanmar border, it had evoked mixed reactions with the Kuki-Zo people claiming that the move will sever ethnic ties while Meitei organisations had hailed the step saying it will check movement of unscrupulous elements from across the border.
The Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), the apex students’ body of Mizoram, said fencing the border will divide the Zo ethnic people between the two countries and bring an end to the Free Movement Regime (FMR).
The Mizoram government and the Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA), the state’s largest civil organisation, also opposed the move to fence the border. Mizoram CM Lalduhoma had earlier said Mizo people can’t accept the present Indo-Myanmar border as it was imposed by the British during colonial period without consulting the Mizo people and fencing the border would mean accepting the colonial demarcation.
Naga bodies in Manipur also said border fencing and cancellation of FMR “is not acceptable” to them. President Ng Lorho of the United Naga Council, the apex Naga body in the state, had told, “We are against border fencing. Whatever Union home minister said is not acceptable to the UNC.”
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu hailed the decision of the Centre to fence the border and had said that the move will check the movement of unscrupulous elements from across the border. “A great move in the right direction to make our borders foolproof. Gratitude to Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi ji and Hon’ble Home Minister Shri @AmitShah ji to fence our borders along Myanmar”, Khandu had written on X.