1643 km Indo-Myanmar border to be fenced, a patrol track to be built: Amit Shah | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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1643 km Indo-Myanmar border to be fenced, a patrol track to be built: Amit Shah

ByNeeraj Chauhan
Feb 06, 2024 08:23 PM IST

The Indian government has announced plans to fence the entire 1,643 km long Indo-Myanmar border, effectively ending the free movement regime between the two countries. The move aims to enhance surveillance and curb insurgencies, smuggling, and the drug trade in the region. The border currently has a free movement regime that allows people on both sides to venture 16 km into each other's territory without any documents. The decision to end the regime comes after an assessment by central intelligence and security agencies. No deadline for completing the fencing has been set yet.

New Delhi: Effectively putting an end to the free movement regime or FMR with Myanmar, which allows people on both sides to venture 16 kms into each other’s territory without any document, the Union government on Tuesday said the entire 1,643 km long Indo-Myanmar border will be fenced.

Union home minister Amit Shah first announced the withdrawal of the free movement regime with Myanmar during a visit to Assam in January. (Twitter/@AmitShah)
Union home minister Amit Shah first announced the withdrawal of the free movement regime with Myanmar during a visit to Assam in January. (Twitter/@AmitShah)

Announcing the decision, Union home minister Amit Shah said the “(Narendra) Modi government is committed to building impenetrable borders”.

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“It has decided to construct a fence along the entire 1643-kilometre-long Indo-Myanmar border. To facilitate better surveillance, a patrol track along the border will also be paved,” Shah said on his X account.

People familiar with the developments said that the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has already sent a proposal to end the FMR, which has been in place since 2018, to the (MEA). “The finer details of the process will be finalised and shared by MEA but it’s a matter of time before the FMR will formally end,” sministry of external affairs aid a person cited above.

The home minister further asserted that “out of the total border length, a 10-km stretch in Moreh, Manipur, has already been fenced”.

“Furthermore, two pilot projects of fencing through a (HSS) are under exhybrid surveillance systemecution. They will fence a stretch of 1 km each in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Additionally, fence works covering approximately 20 km in Manipur have also been approved, and the work will start soon,” Shah added. No deadline to complete the fencing has been decided yet.

Also Read: Fencing out a people, history

The MHA, based on assessment from central intelligence and security agencies, reached a conclusion that ending the FMR will put a lid on insurgencies in the north-east, smuggling and the drug trade.

In fact, it has been decided that anyone wanting to enter India will have to get valid travel documents, like the western border or regular practices adopted for air and sea travel.

The 1,643 km long Indo-Myanmar border (IMB), which passes through Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, currently has FMR and is guarded by Assam Rifles. It was implemented in 2018 as part of India’s Act East policy, an effort to boost the region’s economy by boosting India’s trade with ASEAN and other Southeast Asian nations.

Also Read: The open border policy between India and Myanmar has a long historical legacy that needs to be preserved

Under FMR, every member of hill tribes, who is either a citizen of India or a citizen of Myanmar and who is resident of any area within 16 km on either side of IMB, can cross the border on producing a border pass with one year validity and can stay up to two weeks per visit.

Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh had urged the Centre in September 2023 to end FMR. The state government has argued that insurgents use the free movement regime to further their activities. Manipur has a 390 km porous border with Myanmar.

Mizoram, too, has seen an influx of anti-Junta rebels in thousands since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021. According to Indian government estimates, over 60,000 refugees are living in different parts of Mizoram since the coup.

Former director general of NIA, Y C Modi, who spent a large part of his career in the northeast being part of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, said “It’s a great decision. It shows the intent of the government to stop the insurgency in the north-east. The kind of terrain this porous border has, human deployment was never enough here (at IMB). The fencing will ensure that the insurgents, who take shelter and run training camps across the border, do not frequently enter Indian side”.

JNU assistant professor Thongkholal Haokip had a differing view on this.

“It is going to be difficult to tell people living on the border, who are culturally connected to each other, to give their land. It (fencing) is not going to be easy. The government will need to acquire land for fencing and people will not be cooperative. For instance, how would you divide and fence the village Longwa in Mon (Nagaland), which is located half on Indian side and half on the Myanmar side. Even if it could be done through brute force, the cost is going to be enormous. This fencing will really impact people’s attitude towards the Indian government”.

India has similar border fences with Pakistan and Bangladesh. Of its 3,323 km long land border with Pakistan, India has already fenced 2,064 km. Similarly, on 4,096 km long border with Bangladesh, 3,180 has been completely fenced while 916 km is being covered through physical and non-physical barriers. To be sure, not entire border can be fenced due to riverine/low lying areas, mountains and marshy areas where it is difficult to erect any structure.

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