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Free Movement Regime to end at Myanmar Border

Context:

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.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar: A Shift in Policy
  2. Indo-Myanmar Border Dynamics: Security and Border Management

Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar: A Shift in Policy

Introduction to FMR:

  • The Free Movement Regime (FMR) is a bilateral agreement between India and Myanmar allowing border tribes to travel up to 16 km inside the other country without a visa.
  • Launched in 2018 as part of the Act East policy, it aimed to promote movement, trade, and cultural exchange among ethnically similar communities along the border.

Historical Context:

  • The boundary demarcated by the British in 1826 divided ethnically similar communities into two nations.
  • FMR intended to address this by enabling free movement without visas, fostering local trade and business.

Current Status:

  • FMR has been defunct since 2020, initially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Post the military coup in Myanmar (2021), and escalating refugee crises, India suspended FMR in September 2022.
  • Concerns arose over unintended consequences, such as illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and gun-running.

New Development:

  • The Indian government has decided to conclude the Free Movement Regime with Myanmar.
  • Initiatives include initiating tenders for an advanced smart fencing system along the entire India-Myanmar border.

Rationale for the Shift:

  • Insurgent groups exploit FMR to conduct attacks on the Indian side and escape to Myanmar.
  • The move aims to curb illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and gold trafficking.
  • In September 2023, Manipur’s Chief Minister advocated winding up FMR to address concerns related to illegal immigration.

Challenges:

  • Potential opposition from states like Nagaland and Mizoram.
  • While acknowledging state concerns, border security and management fall under the Centre’s jurisdiction.

Indo-Myanmar Border Dynamics: Security and Border Management

Border Characteristics:

  • The Indo-Myanmar border spans 1,643 km, with states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram sharing this boundary.
  • The demarcation of 1,472 km out of the total length has been completed, leaving two un-demarcated portions in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
Security Concerns:
  • Secessionist Movements:
    • Greater Nagaland movement destabilizes the border, aspiring to include areas from both India and Myanmar.
  • Support to Insurgents and Terrorism:
    • Insurgents in India’s North Eastern states maintain ties with groups in Myanmar, receiving political, economic, logistic, and military support.
    • The porous border facilitates insurgent safe havens.
  • Narcotics Smuggling:
    • India’s proximity to the Golden Triangle results in rampant drug trafficking, especially synthetic drugs to and from Myanmar.
Border Management Measures:
  • Security Forces:
    • The Assam Rifles, known as “Friends of the North East People,” is deployed along the Indo-Myanmar border.
  • Modern Surveillance and Security Tools:
    • Deployment of modern weapons and equipment like UAVs, BFSRs, and Laser Range Finders for effective border security.
  • Border Fencing:
    • Initiatives to fence the border to curb infiltration, smuggling, and illegal activities.
  • Comprehensive Border Infrastructure Project:
    • Undertaking a comprehensive project to enhance infrastructure along the India-Myanmar border.
  • Integrated Check Posts (ICPs):
    • Setting up ICPs at major entry points on land borders for streamlined cross-border movements.
  • Border Area Development Programme (BADP):
    • MHA’s developmental initiatives under BADP contribute to a holistic approach to border management.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2024
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