India is examining the impact of an existing bilateral agreement with Myanmar, which allows free movement of Indian and Myanmarese citizens within 16 km of the border, as the pact is being exploited by militants for smuggling arms, drugs and fake Indian currency. The move came amidst the mass exodus of the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, following turmoil in the Rakhine province of that country. Special Secretary (Internal Secretary) Rina Mitra and Joint Secretary (Northeast) Satyendra Garg have visited all the four states, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, whose borders touch Myanmar where the Free Movement Regime (FMR) is in force.
“Several border exit points also visited to study the existing system. Meetings with the respective state chief secretaries, DGPs, commissioners, Assam Rifles were held. This is as directed by the Home Ministry,” a home ministry spokesperson said. The two-member FMR committee is chaired by Mitra. Home Minister Rajnath Singh had constituted the committee in June to examine the present rules and regulations adopted by the border states for implementation of free movement regime along this border. It was set up at a meeting of chief ministers of the four northeastern states after reports emerged that militants were exploiting the FMR by smuggling arms, drugs, and fake Indian currency.
India has a 1,643-km border with Myanmar and it is unique in many ways as it has a visa-free movement regime for people living within 16 km on either side of the border. They can stay up to 72 hours with effective and valid permits issued by the designated authorities on either side. This regime has been in place keeping in view the traditional social relations among the border people. It helps genuine people living in close proximity of the border. “However, it is misused by militants and criminals who smuggle weapons, narcotics, contraband goods and Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN),” the home minister had said. Singh had said that taking advantage of the free-movement regime, occasionally the militants enter India, commit crimes and escape to their relatively safer hideouts.
The committee will give its report for uniform and effective implementation of free movement regime soon. It will also prepare standard operating procedures common for all the four states so that militants, criminals and contraband are filtered at the border without causing inconvenience to genuine people.
The international border with Myanmar is considered to be porous with cross-border movement of insurgents and smuggling of arms and ammunition common.