Free Movement to end along Myanmar border

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday decided to scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR) along the 1643-kilometre India-Myanmar border passing through northeastern states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

Union home minister Amit Shah said the decision has been taken to ensure the country’s internal security and maintain the demographic structure of the northeastern states.

ET had on July 30, 2023, first reported the Centre’s plans to modify the FMR due to the ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur that started in May last year.

“It is Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi Ji’s resolve to secure our borders. The Ministry of Home Affairs has decided that the Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar be scrapped to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India’s North Eastern States bordering Myanmar,” Shah said on X.

As the Ministry of External Affairs is currently in the process of scrapping it, the MHA has recommended the immediate suspension of the FMR, Shah noted.

Under the FMR, every member of the hill tribes, either a citizen of India or a citizen of Myanmar and anyone who is a resident of any area within 16 km on either side of Indo-Myanmar border could cross the Indo-Myanmar border on production of a border pass (one year validity) issued by the competent authority and could stay up to two weeks per visit.

The FMR was implemented during the first tenure of the Modi government in 2018 as part of the government Act-East policy. The FMR was the formalisation of a practice along a border with difficult terrain.

ET has learnt that at the last foreign office consultations between India and Myanmar in December, the Indian side had hinted that it might withdraw from the FMR in the current circumstances. Sources said the hint was already given to Myanmar and therefore the move is not sudden.

Myanmar Army’s control along the border areas with India has weakened over the last five months.

The decision to scrap the FMR came two days after Shah said that India has decided to fence the entire 1,643-km-long India-Myanmar border. Out of 1,643 km, a demarcation of 1,472 km has been completed. An advanced smart fencing system of 100 km along the Indo-Myanmar border is in the pipeline to strengthen the existing surveillance system.

(You can now subscribe to our Economic Times WhatsApp channel)

William Murphy

Related post