India to end visa-free transit to Myanmar, fence 1,643-km border
08 Feb 2024
India has unilaterally decided to end free movement of people along its border with Myanmar amidst continued ethnic strife between two major tribes in the border state of Manipur, and instead fence the 1,643-km border with Myanmar in order to improve surveillance.
The home ministry has recommended immediate suspension of the Free Movement Regime between India and Myanmar that allows these tribes settled along the border to travel up to 16 km inside the other country without a visa.
This applies to people of both countries and were meant to help people living in the remote hilly areas to secure daily needs. But the conflict in Manipur and the endless influx of refugees have necessitated scrapping of the prevailing Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar.
Home minister Amit Shah said the decision is meant to ensure internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India’s northeastern states bordering Myanmar.
Earlier, in September, last year, the chief minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh had sought permanent closure of the state’s 390 km border with Myanmar in order to curb illegal immigration.
The ministry of external affairs is currently in the process of scrapping the FMR as recommended by the home ministry, he added.
Four India states, including Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, share border with Myanmar. The FMR allows tribes living along the border, who is either a citizen of India or Myanmar, to travel up to 16 km inside the other country without a visa. They only need a border pass to cross over to either country. The pass also allows a person to stay there for a maximum of two weeks.
The FMR got a boost in 2018 with the Modi government’s Act East policy and an upswing in relations between India and Myanmar.