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India Suspends Free Movement Regime with Myanmar Amid Border Security Concerns

India has taken a significant step by suspending the Free Movement Regime (FMR) along the Myanmar border, with immediate effect. This decision requires people living in border areas, who previously enjoyed the privilege of crossing over to India without visas, to now obtain visas for entry. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) cited concerns regarding internal security and the demographic structure of India’s North Eastern States as reasons for scrapping the FMR.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah emphasized the importance of maintaining border security and recommended the immediate suspension of the FMR. The move comes after the government’s announcement to construct a fence along the 1,643-kilometre border with Myanmar, further underlining India’s commitment to bolstering border security measures.

The decision follows active considerations by the Union government and appeals from Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh to cancel the FMR, attributing ethnic violence in the State to unrestricted movement across the border. The Free Movement Regime, established in the 1970s, allowed citizens of hill tribes residing within 16 kilometers on either side of the border to cross over with border passes. However, the Manipur government had already suspended the FMR in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.