Balancing security with livelihoods is essential, but in this case, the need for stringent Indo-Myanmar border control measures is paramount for the safety and well-being of the region’s citizens and the nation at large.
By Kaoba Angomcha
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh has recently made a significant call for the termination of the India-Myanmar border free movement regime and the expedited fencing of this international border. The free movement regime, which has been in place for over 70 years, allows people living in close proximity to the border on both sides to travel up to 16 kilometers into each other’s territory without requiring any documentation. Chief Minister Biren Singh’s call has sparked discussions and debates about border security, illegal immigration, and drug trafficking in Manipur.
The Free Movement Regime: A Security Threat?
Chief Minister Biren Singh has raised concerns that the free movement regime is being misused by “illegal immigrants” and poses a significant security threat to the region. His assertion is not without merit, as border areas often become hotspots for illegal activities, including drug and weapons smuggling including human trafficking. Manipur, in particular, is facing challenges currently related to cross-border criminal activities, and the misuse of this regime has only exacerbated the current situation of ethnic clashes.
One of the key issues highlighted by Chief Minister Biren Singh is the positioning of security forces along the border. He argues that the security forces are stationed too far inside Indian territory, approximately 14-15 kilometers from the actual border. This, according to him, provides an opportunity for exploitation for illegal activities. He proposes that security forces should be deployed at the zero point, effectively strengthening border security and minimizing unauthorized movement.
The Central Government’s Role
Chief Minister Biren Singh’s call for ending the free movement regime raises questions about the role of the Central Government in addressing border security concerns. It is indeed questionable why security forces are stationed so far inside Indian territory rather than being stationed at the border itself. This raises concerns about potential complicity of security forces in illegal activities, in addition to the statement above pointed out by Chief Minister Biren Singh.
Furthermore, the decision to terminate the free movement regime should not require extensive consultation with stakeholders of the state nor an explicit permission from Chief Minister Biren Sigh’s government , as it is fundamentally a matter of national security at international borders. The primary responsibility of the government is to ensure the safety and security of the nation’s citizens, which necessitates stringent border control measures.
The Need for Urgent Action
The situation along the India-Myanmar border calls for immediate attention and action. The laxity and negligence in border security have allowed illegal immigration and drug trafficking to thrive. These issues have not only posed security risks but have also become a source of tension among various ethnic communities in Manipur.
While it is essential to consider the impact on livelihoods at the border, the urgency of addressing security concerns far outweighs any potential disruptions to daily life. Ending the free movement regime and reinforcing border security will not only deter illegal activities but also promote the overall well-being of the people in Manipur.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s call to end the India-Myanmar border free movement regime is a step in the right direction to enhance security and curb illegal activities in Manipur. The concerns raised about the misuse of the regime and the positioning of security forces are valid and require immediate attention from the Central Government. Balancing security with livelihoods is essential, but in this case, the need for stringent border control measures is paramount for the safety and well-being of the region’s residents and the nation at large.