Free Movement Regime to end at Myanmar border
Free Movement Regime to End at Myanmar Border

Agency: The Union government is all set to scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR) along the Myanmar border, a senior government official said on January 2. People living in border areas, who could cross over to India, will soon require visas, the official added. India and Myanmar share an unfenced border, and people on either side have familial and ethnic ties, which prompted the arrangement in the 1970s. It was last revised in 2016.

The official said that around 300 km of the border will be fenced and a tender will be issued in the next few days. He added that a survey of the border areas with the help of drones has been completed.

Amid apprehension that States such as Nagaland and Mizoram may oppose the move, the official said, “Border security is Centre’s domain. We may take note of their concerns but the final decision is of the Union government. We are in talks with Myanmar.”

Under the FMR, every member of the hill tribes, who is either a citizen of India or a citizen of Myanmar, and who resides within 16 km on either side of the border, can cross the border on production of a border pass, usually valid for a year, and can stay for up to two weeks per visit.

The Manipur government has suspended the FMR since 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic. Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said on September 23, 2023 that he has urged the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to cancel the FMR along the India-Myanmar border and complete its fencing. He attributed the ongoing ethnic violence in the State to the free movement of people from across the border.

After a military coup in Myanmar in February 2021, there was an influx of undocumented migrants, over 40,000 refugees took shelter in Mizoram, and around 4,000 refugees are said to have entered Manipur. The migrants belonging to the Kuki-Chin-Zo ethnic group share ethnic ties with communities in Mizoram and Manipur.

India shares a 1,643 km-long border with Myanmar, which passes through the States of Arunachal Pradesh (520 km), Nagaland (215 km), Manipur (398 km), and Mizoram (510 km).
(Courtesy: The Hindu)