Imphal/New Delhi: Union Minister Rajkumar Ranjan Singh has backed the Centre’s plan to fence the India-Myanmar border, amid the crisis in Manipur. Calls have been growing to fence long stretches of the over 1,600-km border with the junta-ruled Myanmar that touches Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh.
“Keeping the borders secure is the nation’s prime duty. The western sector is well-guarded and fenced, so is mostly the border with Bangladesh. On the Myanmar border, there has been a general view for a long time that the areas have been thriving with people from many communities with little problem,” Mr Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs and Education, told NDTV today.
“But the situation today is such that boundary fencing is a must. Everyone in Bharat must keep national security as their first priority. So border fencing should be done before working on border management. Both are separate matters,” the MP from Inner Manipur constituency said.
The comment comes days after the centre decided to end the Free Movement Regime (FMR), which allows people living close to the India-Myanmar border to visit 16 km into each other’s territory without visa. The Manipur government has been asking the Centre to end the FMR for the past few months amid the ethnic tensions in the state between the hill-majority Kuki tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis.
Lalduhoma, the newly elected Chief Minister of Manipur’s neighbour Mizoram, however, recently told External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar that he does not want the border with Myanmar to be fenced, according to a report by Deccan Herald. Mizoram has given shelter to over 35,000 refugees who came from Myanmar to escape the conflict between the junta forces and insurgents.
In the meeting with the Foreign Minister in Delhi, Lalduhoma said if the Centre builds fences along the Mizoram-Myanmar border, it would mean accepting the blunder committed by the British colonial government, which divided the Mizos living in both India and Myanmar. “The Mizo people reject the proposal to fence the border,” Lalduhoma reportedly told Mr Jaishankar.
The comment was seen with concern in neighbouring Manipur, where the valley-based Meiteis have accused illegal immigrants from Myanmar crossing over to India over a matter of decades, and a huge network of drug traffickers fed by thousands of acres of poppy cultivation in the hills, as the core factors behind the violence that began on May 3, 2023.
Mr Singh, who is one of the two MPs from Manipur, said border fencing doesn’t have to be a menacing thing as people can always travel with proper documents.
“We can use the latest smart technology for this purpose. The fence doesn’t have to be coils after coils of metal wires. Many nations are using solar-powered laser fencing that needs little maintenance and can, along with cameras, detect and record movement autonomously,” Mr Singh said, referring to some smart fencing systems that have been installed along the western and Bangladesh borders.
“It is important to keep our borders sealed, safe and intact, for which appropriate fencing is needed. That’s the first basic step towards national security,” Mr Singh added. (courtesy: NDTV)