The home ministry has recommended the immediate suspension of the Free Movement Regime between India and Myanmar that allows tribes along the border to travel up to 16 km inside the other country without a visa.
Days after announcing that a fence would be constructed along the entire 1,643-km-long Myanmar border to facilitate better surveillance, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Thursday that the Centre has decided the Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar will be scrapped to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India’s northeastern states bordering Myanmar.
In his post on X, Shah said, “It is Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji’s resolve to secure our borders. The MHA has decided that the 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.”
In January, The Indian Express had reported that the Centre had decided to start the tender process for an advanced smart fencing system for the entire India-Myanmar border. “We are going to end the FMR along the India-Myanmar border soon. We are going to put up fencing along the entire border. It will be completed in the next four and a half years. Anyone coming to this side will have to get a visa,” a source said.
In September 2023, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had urged the Centre to permanently wind up the FMR along the India-Myanmar border to curb “illegal immigration”. He also said the state was working towards a National Register of Citizens and fencing of the border with Myanmar. Manipur shares around 390 km of porous border with Myanmar, of which only about 10 km is fenced.
The border between India and Myanmar runs along four states — Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. The FMR is a mutually agreed arrangement between the two countries that allows tribes living along the border to travel up to 16 km inside the other country without a visa. Under the FMR, every member of the hill tribes, who is either a citizen of India or a citizen of Myanmar and who is a resident of any area within 16 km on either side of the border can cross over on production of a border pass with one-year validity and can stay up to two weeks.