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Indo-Myanmar Border, Free Movement Regime (FMR)

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Indo-Myanmar Border

India Myanmar Border km Four Indian States

  • Context (TH): An advanced smart fencing system of 100 km along the Myanmar border is being planned to strengthen the existing surveillance system.
  • Indo-Myanmar Border (IMB) is a 1,643 km long border between Myanmar and four Indian states, namely Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • A Free Movement Regime (FMR) exists between India and Myanmar.
  • Manipur CM urged the GoI to cancel the Free Movement Regime (FMR) along Myanmar.
  • The absence of fencing and uncontrolled migration from Myanmar are identified as contributing factors to ethnic violence in Manipur.

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 inside the other country without a visa.
  • 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.
  • As the crisis in Myanmar escalated, GoI suspended the FMR in September 2022.

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:
    • To facilitate people-to-people contact.
    • To provide impetus to local trade and business.

FMR and illegal migration

  • The FMR has been criticised for aiding illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and gun running.
  • Since the military coup in Myanmar in 2021, the junta has launched a campaign of persecution against the Kuki-Chin people. This has pushed many of Myanmar’s tribals into India.

Way forward

  • Most experts agree that the FMR needs better regulation. Given the interests of the local population, neither the complete removal of the FMR nor full border fencing may be desirable.
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