Amid continued tension in Manipur, govt moves to end Free Movement Regime along India-Myanmar border

Centre in talks with Myanmar authorities in this regard

Union Home Minister Amit Shah addresses the 'Hindu Gaurav Divas' programme organized on the death anniversary of BJP leader Kalyan Singh, in Aligarh | PTI

The Centre is in talks with Myanmar authorities to end the free movement of people and goods on the porous 1,643-km-long India-Myanmar border, which passes through Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

In view of continuing tensions in Manipur which witnessed firing incidents on Monday, the government is looking at long-term solutions which include putting an end to the Free Movement Regime, which has been misused by militants and trans-border criminals to smuggle weapons and fake Indian currency and escape to safer hideouts after committing crimes.

The issue has been high on the agenda of the Biren Singh government in the state but a detailed study by the Union home ministry was necessary before a final decision is taken.

The Free Movement Regime (FMR) was implemented in 2018 and allowed people residing close to the India-Myanmar border to venture 16 km into each other's territory without a visa. “The decision cannot be taken unilaterally. Hence, we are talking to Myanmar authorities to stop the FMR,” said a government official.

The FMR has been a key aspect of India’s Act East Policy where New Delhi and Naypyidaw have been looking at building trade and infrastructure as well as securing India’s northeast region, addressing the issue of illegal migration and role of China among others.

But what can be implemented by New Delhi on its own is fencing the entire border stretch with Myanmar. This is now being done on a war footing with the government aiming to complete it in four and a half years.

The move also comes at a time when the government has signed a peace deal with the ULFA pro-talks faction, the ninth insurgent group to come on board during the BJP regime. The fencing would ensure the insurgent groups who carry out any attacks on Indian soil are unable to flee towards Myanmar.

Another key concern has been Rohingya militancy which has time and again been flagged by central intelligence agencies. With the government now hoping to address the concerns on the Indo-Myanmar border, the focus may shift to the Indo-Bangladesh border where government sources said despite checks, the problem of illegal migration is festering in West Bengal and proving to be a headache for security agencies. 

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