NEW DELHI, Jan 20: India will fence the border with Myanmar and will end the Free Movement Regime between the two countries, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced on Saturday.
Addressing the passing out parade of the first batch of the five newly-constituted Assam Police Commando battalions, Shah said the Centre was rethinking the free-movement facility with Myanmar. “The India-Myanmar border will be protected like the Bangladesh border… The Government of India will stop the free movement with Myanmar,” he said and added, “People living on border regions will soon require a visa to enter the other country.”
He said India would fence the border along Myanmar in a bid to restrict free movement into India. The announcement came weeks after the government sources had indicated that India was considering to end soon the FMR, which allows people residing on either side of the India-Myanmar border to venture 16 km into each other’s territory without visa.
The FMR was brought in the 1970s as people living along the India-Myanmar border have familial and ethnic ties. India and Myanmar share a 1,643 km border across Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, of which only 10 km is fenced, in Manipur. The FMR allows tribes living along the border on either side, many of whom share ethnic bonds, to travel up to 16 km inside the other country without a visa and stay up to two weeks.
Official sources had earlier stated that the Centre had decided to start the tendering for an advanced smart fencing system for the entire India-Myanmar border. “We are going to end the FMR along the Indo-Myanmar border soon. We are going to put fencing along the entire border. The fencing will be completed in the next four-and-half years. Anyone coming through will have to get a visa,” the sources had said.
Earlier in September 2023, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had urged the Centre to permanently wind up the FMR along the Indo-Myanmar border to curb “illegal immigration.” He had also said the state was working towards a National Register of Citizens and fencing of the border with Myanmar. Manipur shares around 390 km of porous border with Myanmar.
The announcement by Mr Shah comes amid a high number of Myanmar soldiers fleeing into India to escape ethnic clashes. Nearly 600 Myanmar Army soldiers have crossed into India in the last three months. They took refuge in Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district after their camps were captured by the Arakan Army (AA) militants – an ethnic armed group in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine – government sources said.
Earlier in the day the Mizoram government reached out to the Centre urging them to quickly ensure that the soldiers from the neighbouring nations were sent back. As fighting rages between rebel forces in Myanmar and the junta-regime, hundreds of Myanmar Army personnel are fleeing to India.
Myanmar’s generals are facing their biggest test since they seized power in a 2021 coup after three ethnic minority forces launched a coordinated offensive in late October, capturing some towns and military posts and forcing soldiers to flee.
Later addressing the 60th Raising Day of Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) in Assam’s Tezpur, Mr Shah said under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the country would be cent per cent free of the problem of Naxalism in the next three years. “I believe that in the next three years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, the country will completely get rid of the problem of Naxalism,” Mr Shah said.
Lauding the bravery of the SSB in fighting against Naxalism, Amit Shah said along with the CRPF and the BSF, the SSB has brought the Naxal movement to an edge. “Along with protecting the border of friendly countries of Nepal and Bhutan, the SSB has fought against Naxalites in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. I have heard of your bravery whenever I have gone on review of Naxal operations in these areas,” Shah said.
Speaking on the role of the SSB in eliminating terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the Union Home Minister said, “In Jammu and Kashmir, the SSB has laid down their lives while fighting together with the CRPF, BSF, Jammu and Kashmir Police and the Indian Army against terrorists.”