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India to fence border with Myanmar and end free movement agreement amid civil war

Fighting between military and rebel forces continue in Myanmar’s western region

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 22 January 2024 14:57 GMT
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The Indian government is planning to fence India's border with Myanmar and end the free movement regime (FMR) agreement between the two countries amid civil war in the neighbouring country.

India's federal home minister Amit Shah made the announcement to fortify the 1,000-mile border just days after an ethnic rebel group in Rakhine state captured a town bordering India.

“I want to tell my friends in Assam that the Narendra Modi government has decided to fence India’s open border along with Myanmar just like we have fenced the country’s border along with Bangladesh,” Mr Shah said.

He added that the “government is also reconsidering India’s FMR agreement with Myanmar and will soon end the free movement into India”.

Myanmar shares its largely unfenced border in the northeast with India's Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh states. The FMR – a mutual agreement between the two nations – allows people living along the border to travel up to 10 miles into the other country without a visa.

Since its implementation in 2018, the agreement has allowed people escaping the violence in Myanmar to seek refuge in India's notheastern states.

Nearly 30,000 people from Myanmar's Chin state have taken shelter in Mizoram since the 2021 February coup, which saw the junta take over Myanmar after wresting power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 416 Myanmar soldiers have also crossed into India since a fresh bout of violence erupted after ethnic minority forces the Three Brotherhood Alliance launched a coordinated offensive against the military in late October.

Indian authorities have been sending back Myanmar troops within days of them crossing over, Reuters reported.

Mr Shah last year blamed the domestic unrest in Myanmar for the ongoing ethnic conflict between minority Kuki and majority Meitei communities in Manipur. At least 180 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in May 2023.

He told the Indian parliament in August that political instability in Myanmar had prompted thousands of refugees to flee into Manipur across a porous border.

The influx from Myanmar, Mr Shah said, created “a feeling of insecurity” among the Meiteis. Meanwhile, the rebel alliance in Myanmar has agreed to a China-brokered ceasefire with the ruling military, which would be put in place in the northern part of the country.

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