Rohinga crisis forces review of free movement regime on Indo-Myanmar border

The union home ministry is now having a relook at the bilateral agreement with Myanmar that allows free movement of Indian and Myanmarese citizens within 16 kilometres of the border.

The home ministry has now set up a committee which will review the implementation of the bilateral agreement and submit its report for uniform and effective implementation of free movement regime soon.

The committee will prepare standard operating procedures common for all the four states so that terrorists, criminals and contraband are filtered at the border without causing inconvenience to genuine people.

Intelligence agencies have warned the home ministry that the Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Myanmar, following turmoil in the Rakhine province of that country could enter India through the free boarder.

A team of home ministry officials visited several border points through which the fleeing Rohingyas could enter the country.

The team comprising Special Secretary (Internal Security) Rina Mittal and Joint Secretary (North East) Satyender Garg visited all four states with free movement regime (FMR) - Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur. The team also visited several border exit points.

"The group studied the existing system. And what precautions can be taken as recently there have been cases wherein the existing system has been exploited by militants for smuggling arms, drugs and fake Indian currency," reports quoting senior officials of the ministry said.

The group also had several meetings with respective state chief secretaries, DGPs and also officers of the Assam Rifles.

The committee was constituted after union home minister Rajnath Singh visited the North east three months ago.

According to visa free movement regime people living within 16 km on either side of the border can stay on the other side.

India shares a 1,643-km-long border with Myanmar. The unique visa free regime has been in place keeping in view the traditional social relations among the border people. It helps genuine people living in close proximity of the border.

"However, it is misused by militants and criminals who smuggle weapons, narcotics, contraband goods and Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN)," the home minister Rajnath Sigh had said.

The international border with Myanmar is considered to be porous with cross-border movement of insurgents and smuggling of arms and ammunition.