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Updated February 9th, 2024 at 14:01 IST

Northeast States Divided as MHA decides to suspend Free Movement Regime with Myanmar

The Free Movement Regime allows residents near the Indo-Myanmar border to move up to 16km without a visa or internationally approved travel documents.

Anirudha Bhakat
Northeast States Divided as MHA decides to suspend Free Movement Regime with Myanmar
Northeast States Divided as MHA decides to suspend Free Movement Regime with Myanmar | Image:PTI
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Assam: The Northeastern states showcased a divided stance on the Centre's decision to fence the entire India-Myanmar border and scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR). While Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Tripura applauded the move, Nagaland and Mizoram voiced concerns.

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh commended the Centre's decision, attributing instability in the state to the Free Movement Regime. Singh expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister for addressing the concerns of Manipur residents, especially during the state's turbulent period over the last nine months.

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In contrast, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma raised apprehensions, emphasising that the FMR's termination could distress people with relatives on both sides of the border. Civil society bodies and NGOs have urged the Chief Ministers of Nagaland and Mizoram to engage with the Center on this matter.

Lalduhoma stated that Mizoram opposes border fencing and FMR scrapping due to ethnic ties with Myanmar's Chin community. Fencing the current border, he argued, would endorse the boundary imposed by the British, which Mizos reject.

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What is a Free Movement Regime?

The Free Movement Regime allows residents near the Indo-Myanmar border to move up to 16km without a visa or internationally approved travel documents.

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Controversy Surrounding FMR

FMR has been exploited by terror groups and drug traffickers, taking advantage of residents and the porous border. The illegal trade of Chinese and Thai products also occurs through the India-Myanmar border using the FMR.

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Implications of Scrapping FMR

The termination of FMR will necessitate residents to apply for visas before crossing the border, disrupting the free movement enjoyed within the 16km radius. The move is expected to curb the activities of terror groups, seal the 1643km border, and halt drug trafficking, particularly from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia.

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Top officials from the Indian Police Service and the Narcotics Control Bureau predict an 80% reduction in drug trafficking with the scrapping of FMR and the installation of a border fence.

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Published February 9th, 2024 at 14:01 IST

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