Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced on Tuesday that the government has decided to construct a fence along the entire 1643-kilometer-long Indo-Myanmar border to facilitate better surveillance and ensure a patrol track along the border.
Highlighting Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s dedication to fortify national borders, Amit Shah announced that the government has chosen to erect a fence along the entire India-Myanmar border.
“The Modi government is committed to building impenetrable borders.It has decided to construct a fence along the entire 1643-kilometer-long Indo-Myanmar border. To facilitate better surveillance, a patrol track along the border will also be paved,” Home Minister posted on X. Out of the total border length, the Minister said, a 10-kilometre stretch in Moreh, Manipur, has already been fenced. Furthermore, the Minister said, two pilot projects of fencing through a Hybrid Surveillance System (HSS) are under execution, and they will fence a stretch of 1 km each in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. “Additionally, fence works covering approximately 20 km in Manipur have also been approved, and the work will start soon,” Shah said.
Officials, privy to the development, had earlier indicated that the Central government is mulling to terminate the Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar in an effort to curb the influx of illegal migrants and insurgents.
The plan is part of consideration to end a point of contention as local residents complain that the FMR policy has become a major subject of contention as it is often misused and facilitates “illegal immigration, drug and arms trafficking”. Manipur government as well as other northeast states facing the issue has also raised the matter with the Central government earlier.
The 1,643-km-long India-Myanmar border, spanning Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh, currently operates under the FMR, which permits individuals living near the India-Myanmar border to travel 16 km into each other’s territories without a visa. Initiated in 2018, the FMR policy was a component of India’s Act East policy.
As per FMR policy, those belonging to the hill tribes, being citizens of either India or Myanmar and residing within a 16 km radius on either side of the border, can cross with a border pass valid for one year, allowing a stay of up to two weeks per visit.
“We plan to terminate the FMR along the Indo-Myanmar border shortly. Our aim is to install fencing along the entire border, a project expected to be completed in the next four-and-a-half years. Individuals entering will be required to obtain a visa,” stated an official privy to the plan being prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“The objective is not only to halt the misuse of the FMR, which insurgent groups exploit for attacks on the Indian side before escaping to Myanmar, but also to stop the inflow of illegal immigrants and disrupt networks involved in drug and gold smuggling.”
Another official shared that the process of “tendering for an advanced smart fencing system covering 300 km of the India-Myanmar border is already in progress, and the project’s implementation will commence shortly.”
Allegations claim that following the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021, a considerable number of Myanmar’s tribal population crossed into India, particularly Manipur and Mizoram, and remained illegally. It’s alleged that these individuals sought refuge on Indian territory and subsequently engaged in unlawful activities, notably drug smuggling.
In September 2023, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had appealed to the Centre to terminate the FMR. The state government contends that insurgents exploit this regime to advance their activities.
Manipur shares approximately 390 km of a porous border with Myanmar, with only about 10 km fenced as of now. In July last year, the state government disclosed data indicating that approximately 700 illegal immigrants had entered the state. Additionally, following the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021, Mizoram has witnessed an influx of thousands of anti-Junta rebels. Government estimates suggest that several thousand refugees have settled in various parts of Mizoram since the coup.
Mizoram has a porous border spanning 510 kilometres with Myanmar.
The Manipur Chief Minister mentioned incidents where individuals from Myanmar attempted to enter his state but retreated upon encountering a substantial presence of security personnel. Manipur shares a 398-kilometer border with Myanmar.
Arunachal Pradesh shares a 520-kilometre border with Myanmar, whereas Nagaland’s border with the country spans 215 kilometers.