NEW DELHI – The authorities in India have disclosed the government’s decision to terminate the unrestricted movement of people along the India-Myanmar border.
Addressing a ceremony on Saturday, Home Minister Amit Shah declared that the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen to secure the open India-Myanmar border with extensive barbed fencing.
He emphasized that the entire border will be revamped with barbed fencing, mirroring the security measures implemented along the India-Bangladesh border.
In the backdrop of historical collaboration, the India-Myanmar border initially functioned under a Free Movement Regime (FMR), permitting visa-free travel within 40 km on both sides of the 1,643km long border but in 2004, India adjusted the limit to 16 km.
Both countries later inked the Land Border Crossing agreement in May 2018 which permits residents on either side to spend a day in the neighboring country without a visa or official documentation, and up to 72 hours with effective and valid permits issued by designated authorities on either side.
The porous border, spanning Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh, currently has only 10 km fenced by the Manipur Government, which discontinued the FMR in 2020 post the COVID-19 pandemic.
This decision to fence the border and discontinue the free movement liberty gains significance amidst the persistent ethnic unrest in Manipur since May 2023, resulting in over 200 casualties and displacing at least 67,000 residents.
Manipur’s Chief Minister, N Biren Singh, had urged the federal government last year to permanently end the Free Movement Regime and fortify the border to prevent undesirable influx, attributing the violent conflicts to unrestricted cross-border movement.
The request seems to have been acceded to by the federal government as evident by the statement of the Indian minister.
India is a South Asian country with a population exceeding 1.3 billion. It employs various security measures, including military, intelligence, and border control, to safeguard its diverse population and address regional challenges and had historic ties with Myanmar but the latest decision might dent a blow to the ties.