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MHA Recommends Repealing of FMR with Myanmar




A Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Press release on February 08 indicated that the government has decided to scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India’s North Eastern States bordering Myanmar.


Union Home Minister and Minister of Cooperation, Shri Amit Shah in his post on ‘X’said that “It is Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji's resolve to secure our borders, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided that the Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar be scrapped to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India’s North Eastern States bordering Myanmar. Since the Ministry of External Affairs is currently in the process of scrapping it, MHA has recommended the immediate suspension of the FMR.”


The decision comes even as state authorities including the Chief Minister contend that militants – North East groups as well as some claims of Myanmar’s anti government forces and drug and people running networks has led to deterioration of the security situation. This conclusion is debatable and can be done separately.


Given this conclusion by the state authorities it is believed that the immediate solution is repealing of the Free Movement Regime (FMR) and construction of border fencing to prevent infiltration of militant groups and drugs.


What is the FMR?


The FMR is a result of deliberations over the past seven decades and more given the realities of division of a common home of communities living on both sides due to the Indo Myanmar border. FMR provides free access upto 16 kilometers to either side without having any formal documents such as Passport or Visa.


In the wake of the exploitation of free movement rights granted over these by militant groups and drug syndicates amongst others, these were curtailed during certain periods. With peace unfolding in the North East in the past half a decade or so the idea of FMR has borne fruite.


As late as in January 2018, the Indian Cabinet committed itself to the Free Movement Regime in terms of, “Agreement between India and Myanmar on Land Border Crossing”.


A Press Information Bureau release states, “The Agreement will safeguard the traditional rights of the largely tribal communities residing along the border which are accustomed to free movement across the land border”.


It should be noted that the FMR is granted through designated border points and is not a freedom for movement across the entire border as such including the local points.


Reasons for Repealing the FMR


India’s defence and internal security administration has determined that the FMR has been abused by anti national elements in the instance case giving rise to violence in Manipur which has now become a militant problem. Security officials claimed that arms are being smuggled by militants exploiting the FMR. Thus the solution is seen as repealing the FMR.


Implications


While the Central and State Government feels that repealing of FMR will lead to prevention of unrestricted movement of malcontents on both sides of the border, this may create disonnance amongst the people per se with communities have links across on both sides be it in Nagaland, Manipur or Mizoram.


Effective implementation of the FMR may become a challenge while creating concerns in the people for suturing links on both sides of the border.


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