Home ministry recommends suspension of India-Myanmar free movement regime | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Home ministry recommends suspension of India-Myanmar free movement regime

Feb 08, 2024 02:14 PM IST

The free movement regime was implemented in 2018 as part of India’s effort to boost the region’s economy by enhancing trade with Southeast Asian nations

Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday said his ministry has recommended an immediate suspension of the free movement regime between India and Myanmar that allowed people from both sides to travel 16 km into each other’s territory without paperwork. Hill tribes with kin across the 1,643-km boundary would freely go back and forth under the regime.

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah (PTI)
New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah (PTI)

In a post on X, Shah referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s resolve to secure borders and added the home ministry has decided that the regime be scrapped to ensure internal security and maintain the demographic structure of India’s northeastern states bordering Myanmar. He added that his ministry was in the process of scrapping the regime and has hence recommended its immediate suspension.

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On Tuesday, Shah announced the border will be fenced, effectively ending the free movement regime. The Myanmar border will be the third frontier that India will fence after the borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Shah said the fencing of the India-Myanmar border will facilitate better surveillance. He added a patrol track along the border will also be paved.

Shah said a 10-km stretch of the border in Moreh in ethnic violence-hit Manipur has been fenced. Two pilot projects of fencing through a hybrid surveillance system were under execution in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Shah said fence works covering around 20 km in Manipur have also been approved.

Representatives of Manipur-based tribal groups, who met the home ministry representatives over the regime, said cancelling it will affect people and they may approach the Supreme Court.

Officials have said the insurgents were using the porous border and the free movement regime to fuel the insurgency in the northeastern states.

HT on Wednesday reported that the decision to end the free cross-border movement was based on an assessment from central intelligence and security agencies as part of efforts to check insurgencies, smuggling, and the drug trade.

The free movement regime was implemented in 2018 as part of India’s effort to boost the region’s economy by enhancing trade with Southeast Asian nations. Members of hill tribes were allowed to cross the border by producing a border pass with one-year validity for a stay of up to two weeks per visit.

Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh, whose state shares borders with Myanmar along with Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, urged the Union government in September 2023 to end the system. He said insurgents were using it to further their activities.

There has also been an influx of over 60,000 refugees into Mizoram amid the fresh turmoil in Myanmar. Myanmar’s military coup that removed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from power in February 2021 triggered the turmoil. Thousands of people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced as the military has cracked down on protests.

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    Prawesh Lama covers crime, policing, and issues of security in Delhi. Raised in Darjeeling, educated in Mumbai, he also looks at special features on social welfare in the National Capital.

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