New Delhi: In a significant move aimed at bolstering internal security, the Union Home Ministry has recommended the suspension of the India-Myanmar Free Movement Regime (FMR), citing “internal security” concerns. This decision comes just two days after Home Minister Amit Shah announced plans to fence the entire 1,643-km border with Myanmar and establish a patrolling track alongside the barrier.
Home Minister Amit Shah emphasized Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to securing India’s borders, asserting that the Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to scrap the Free Movement Regime to safeguard the country’s internal security and maintain the demographic structure of the northeastern states.
The FMR, which allowed citizens from both India and Myanmar to cross the border and travel up to 16km into each other’s territory without passports or visas, has now been suspended.
Earlier in the week, Amit Shah disclosed plans to fortify the entire 1,643-km border with Myanmar as part of the government’s broader strategy to establish impenetrable borders. Notably, a 10-km stretch in Manipur’s Moreh has already been fenced, with two pilot projects implementing a “hybrid surveillance system” each covering a kilometre now operational.
The decision to suspend the FMR and fortify the border comes in the wake of ethnic violence in Manipur last year between the Kuki-Zo tribes and the Meiteis, resulting in nearly 200 casualties and displacement of tens of thousands. The Meiteis have attributed the violence, in part, to the unchecked entry of illegal immigrants from Myanmar facilitated by the FMR.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s administration in Manipur has also supported the scrapping of the FMR and border fortification, citing concerns over insurgents, illegal immigrants, and drug traffickers exploiting the policy.
Meanwhile, Mizoram has expressed opposition to the removal of the FMR and border fencing, highlighting the shared ethnic ties between people residing on both sides of the border. Mizoram’s Chief Minister Lalduhoma has argued against the separation of ethnic groups living along the border, stressing the need for unity.
The India-Myanmar Free Movement Regime, initiated in 1970 and revived by the Narendra Modi government in 2016 as part of its ‘Act East’ policy, allowed for visa-free entry and was intended to facilitate visits by tribes with shared kinship, social, and ethnic ties across the border.