The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) annual report for 2022-23, which was released last week, highlights a forthcoming initiative to enhance border security along the Myanmar frontier. According to sources, this advanced smart fencing system, spanning 100 kilometers, aims to bolster existing surveillance infrastructure.
One of the key motivations behind this border fortification is the ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur, which has claimed the lives of at least 175 individuals since May 3. The report attributes this violence, in part, to the unfenced border and unregulated migration from Myanmar.
Manipur has witnessed a significant share of insurgency-related incidents in 2022, with 137 out of 201 such incidents occurring in the state. Various insurgent groups, including Meitei, Naga, Kuki, Zomi, and Hmar factions, have had an impact on Manipur.
Notably, 23 underground outfits, organised under two conglomerates – the United Peoples’ Front (UPF) and the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) – have been under a Suspension of Operation (SoO) pact with the Indian government since August 2008. The report also mentions the existence of a Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar. Under the FMR, residents within 16 kilometers on either side of the Indo-Myanmar border, who are citizens of either India or Myanmar, can cross the border by producing a valid border pass with a one-year validity, allowing them to stay for up to two weeks per visit.
However, the Manipur government suspended the FMR in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh recently urged the MHA to cancel the FMR along the Myanmar border and expedite border fencing.
India shares a 1,643-kilometer border with Myanmar, passing through Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram. According to the report, 1,472 kilometers out of the total 1,643 kilometers have been marked for demarcation. Furthermore, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been entrusted with the construction of a border fence spanning 10.023 kilometers in Moreh, Manipur. The report indicates that work is currently underway, with 6.812 kilometers of fencing already in place, and the entire construction project is set to reach completion by 2023.