Friday, March 1, 2024

India to halt Free Movement Regime with Myanmar, says Amit Shah

On Saturday, Amit Shah announced the discontinuation of unchecked movement on the presently porous Indian-Myanmar border. With the quashing of the Free Movement Regime (FMR), the border will be fenced and no person will be allowed to cross the border without a visa.

Since the beginning, India and Myanmar’s border operated on a Free Movement Regime (FMR), which enabled visa-free movement of people residing within 40 km on either side of the 1,643km long border. In 2004, post a variety of insurgencies and an increasing crime rate, India lessened the limit to 16 km. 

Following further abuses of the FMR, the two countries signed the Land Border Crossing agreement in May 2018, which enabled residents on either side to stay for a day in the other country without a visa or any official document, or reside for up to 72 hours “with effective and valid permits issued by the designated authorities on either side”.  

On 20th January, Saturday, Amit Shah addressed a parade of freshly appointed Assam Police officers in Guwahati, “Our border with Myanmar is an open border. The Narendra Modi government has decided that the India-Myanmar border will be secure and the whole border will be fenced like the Bangladesh border. The government is reconsidering our Free Movement Regime (FMR) agreement with Myanmar, and is going to end this ease of coming and going.”

The Union Minister spoke at the passing out ceremony of the first batch of five newly deployed Assam Police commando battalions.

The porous border, which runs through four Northeastern states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, has only 10 km of it fenced by the Manipur Government, which discontinued the FMR in 2020 post the COVID pandemic.

This decision comes now when the ethnic unrest in Manipur remains ongoing since May 2023, having resulted in over 200 killings and the displacement of at least 67,000 residents. N Biren Singh, Manipur’s Chief Minister, had urged the Centre to quash the Free Movement Regime “permanently” and fence the border to halt undesirable “influx” back in September 2023. He had associated the violent conflicts to the free movement of people across the border.

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