Misplaced priorities: On the scrapping of the Free Movement Regime between India and Myanmar

The free movement regime between India and Myanmar had more benefits than costs

That the demand to scrap the FMR has been most vociferously endorsed by one section of the currently conflict-prone Manipur but has also been fervently opposed by Nagaland and Mizoram should provide a hint about the sentiments of the people in these States. Myanmar is in the throes of a civil war with civilians from its western regions and States such as Sagain and Chin State seeking refuge and humanitarian relief in neighbouring Mizoram and Manipur. The Mizos of Mizoram and the Kuki-Zo community in Manipur feel a kinship with the Chin community and have been organising relief for the refugees. The opposition to the FMR has come from Meitei majoritarian forces in the Imphal valley who have raised the bogey of Chin refugees entering Manipur as a case of illegal migration. The institution of the FMR, as a formalised regime of the movement of citizens across the sparsely populated border to within 16 kilometres of it, for trade and commerce, was a nod to India’s Act East policy. This was also an expression of the will of people of the region who share ethnic relations but are divided by colonially drawn boundaries. The reversal of this regime and the humongous exercise of fencing a border situated in rugged mountains and forests is a case of misplaced priorities and needs reconsideration.