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3rd January 2024 (10 Topics)

Transforming India-Myanmar Border Policies: Scrapping the Free Movement Regime

Context

The Union government has proposed significant changes in the border policies along the India-Myanmar border, aiming to replace the existing Free Movement Regime (FMR). This move has been prompted by concerns about misuse of the FMR by militants and criminals.

Background

  • India and Myanmar share a unique relationship with a largely unfenced border of 1,643 km, passing through Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram.
  • The FMR, established in the 1970s and last revised in 2016, allowed people residing within 16 km on either side of the border to cross with a border pass, fostering familial and ethnic ties.
  • The Union Home Ministry had constituted a committee (in 2017) headed by Rina Mitra, Special Secretary-Internal Security, to examine the rules and regulations governing the FMR.

Need for Change:

  • The proposed changes come amid growing concerns about security and misuse of the FMR.
  • The misuse, including the smuggling of weapons, contraband goods, and fake Indian currency notes, has prompted the Union Home Ministry to form a committee to reevaluate the existing rules and regulations.

Proposed Changes:

  • The government plans to fence around 300 km of the border, with a tender expected in the coming days.
  • A completed drone survey of the border areas will inform the implementation of these changes.
  • The move is anticipated to affect States like Nagaland and Mizoram, but the Centre emphasizes that border security falls under its jurisdiction.

State Perspectives:

  • Manipur had already suspended the FMR in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Chief Minister has urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to cancel the FMR, linking it to ethnic violence in the state caused by the unrestricted movement of people across the border.

The proposed changes in the India-Myanmar border policies mark a significant development in the region. Balancing security needs with historical ties, these changes aim to address the misuse of the Free Movement Regime, emphasizing the importance of securing the border against potential threats.

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