Home Minister Amit Shah said on Thursday the Centre has decided to scrap the India-Myanmar Free Movement Regime (FMR) to maintain the country’s internal security and demographic structure of the northeastern states. Shah added that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has recommended the immediate suspension of FMR.
As per FMR policy, those belonging to the hill tribes, being citizens of either India or Myanmar and residing within a 16 km radius on either side of the border, can cross with a border pass valid for one year, allowing a stay of up to two weeks per visit.
No clarity yet on govt measures
There is no clarity yet on what measures the Government will take to enforce the decision all along the 1,643-km border with Myanmar. Nor is there any clarity on how quickly a fencing project will be completed. Not all border areas have been demarcated for fencing. The India-Myanmar border, which passes through Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, is currently subject to FMR.
It was implemented in 2018 as part of India’s Act East policy. Meiti groups based in Imphal have demanded that the border be fenced, alleging that tribal militants often enter India through the porous border. They also claim narcotics and arms are being smuggled because of the porous nature of border.
Patrol track along the border to be laid for better surveillance
Now, running along the fence, a patrol track along the border will also be laid to facilitate better surveillance. A stretch of pilot fencing is already underway. “They will fence a stretch of one km each in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Additionally, fence works covering approx 20 km in Manipur have also been approved, and the work will start soon,” Amit Shah had said. Manipur shares around 390 km of the border but only about 10 km has been fenced so far.
In July last year, the state government shared data that around 700 illegal immigrants entered the state. Mizoram has seen an influx of anti-Junta rebels in thousands since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021. According to government estimates, several thousand refugees are living in different parts of Mizoram since the coup. Mizoram shares a 510-km-long border with Myanmar.
Naga & Kuki-based organisations oppose move to scrap FMR
Arunachal Pradesh shares a 520-km border with Myanmar while Nagaland shares a 215- km stretch. “The objective is not only to halt the misuse of the FMR, which insurgent groups exploit for attacks on the Indian side before escaping to Myanmar, but also to stop the inflow of illegal immigrants and disrupt networks involved in drug and gold smuggling, ” said an official. “Tendering for an advanced smart fencing system covering 300 km of the India-Myanmar border is already in progress, and the project’s implementation will commence shortly”, another official said. In September 2023, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh appealed to the Centre to terminate the FMR.
On Thursday, he thanked Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for scrapping the FMR. Naga and Kuki-based organisations have opposed the move to scrap the FMR claiming that the move will sever ethnic ties. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also hailed the decision to terminate the FMR