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  • Context (TH | IE): India suspends the Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar.
  • Further, to facilitate better surveillance, a patrol track along the border will also be paved.

    India Myanmar Border km Four Indian States

  • Indo-Myanmar Border (IMB) is a 1,643 km long border between Myanmar and four Indian states, namely Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Border with Myanmar had been predominantly unfenced, except for a small section in Manipur covering approximately 10 km.
  • A Free Movement Regime (FMR) used to exist between India and Myanmar.

Free Movement Regime (FMR)

  • The FMR is a mutually agreed arrangement between India and Myanmar that allows tribes living along the border on either side to travel up to 16 km to the other side without a visa.
  • Under it, every member of the hill tribes, who is either a citizen of India or a citizen of Myanmar and who is a resident of any area within 16 km on either side of the border can cross over on production of a border pass with one-year validity and can stay up to two weeks.
  • It was implemented in 2018 as part of the GoI’s Act East policy.
  • The Manipur government has suspended the FMR since 2020, post-COVID-19 pandemic.

Why was FMR started?

  • The British demarcated the border between India and Myanmar in 1826.
  • The British did not seek the people’s opinion in the region.
  • The border effectively divided people of the same ethnicity and culture into two nations.
  • FMR was conceptualised:
    1. To facilitate people-to-people contact.
    2. To provide impetus to local trade and business.

Issues with FMR?

  • The illegal migration of tribal Kuki-Chin peoples into India from Myanmar is one of the key issues in the ongoing Manipur conflict. 
  • It aids illegal immigration, drug trafficking, contraband goods and fake Indian currency notes.
  • In Manipur, the aftermath of the military junta’s resurgence in Myanmar in 2021 has seen a notable increase in drug seizures, soaring from nearly 3 tonnes in 2021 to over 10 tonnes within a year.
  • Manipur government has alleged that village chiefs have been illegally settling migrants from Myanmar in new villages in the hills, leading to deforestation.
  • The border is almost entirely unfenced, and runs through forested and undulating terrain resulting in difficulties in monitoring.

Is ending FMR the only solution?

  • According to a paper published by Anuradha Oinam of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) neither cancelling the FMR nor completely fencing the border is the solution as it could affect livelihoods, education and essential travel for health care.
  • Managing and administering the border areas effectively is pertinent for reducing drug trafficking and illegal cross-border movement on unfenced borders.
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