- Q. Cross-border movement of insurgents is only one of the several security challenges facing the policing of the border in North-East India. Examine the various challenges currently emanating across the India-Myanmar border. Also, discuss the steps to counter the challenges. (250 words)
India and Myanmar share a long 1,643 km geographical land border and maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal, which act as India’s gateway to South-East Asia.
India-Myanmar border is highly porous, poorly guarded and located along a remote, underdeveloped, insurgency-prone region and proximate to opium producing area.
Various challenges across the India-Myanmar border
▪️ Cross-Border Terrorism: Indo-Myanmar border area have become a safe haven for dozens of insurgent groups. These insurgent groups performs offensive action in India and brings instability to the area by promoting separatist tendencies and take an easy hide in Myanmar.
✔️ These groups also take advantage of loopholes in free movement regime across border to supply arms and drugs in India.
▪️ Connectivity: Several connectivity projects like Kaladan Multi-Modal project and IMT Trilateral Highway project are underway, but the ground level progress is quite unfortunate.
Free Movement Regime: It permits tribals to travel 16 km across the borders without any visa restrictions and allowed them to carry heavy loads. This loophole is well utilized by insurgents for trafficking of arms and drugs and to find safe havens in Myanmar.
▪️ Boundary Agreement 1967: Though the agreement has delineated the borders between the two countries but not much has been crystallised on ground level.
▪️ Tribal Linkages: The Indo-Myanmar border is densely populated with tribals, and these tribal communities have strong social-cultural linkages across borders and they refuse to accept the artificial border lines.
▪️ Security Forces: Assam Rifles had a responsibility of guarding the Indo-Myanmar border, but most of it battalions are engaged in counter-insurgency operations.
Therefore, it functions like counter-insurgency force rather than border-guarding force.
Infrastructural Facility at Border
▪️ Check-Points: The infrastructure facilities at border check-points is not sufficient to meet the required challenge. Moreh-Zokhawater point has been declared as Integrated Check-Point (ICP) but nothing much have materialised on the ground.
▪️ Difficult Terrain Across Border: The geographical terrain around border areas is highly inaccessible, so it becomes quite difficult to develop communication and connectivity.
Trafficking: Proximity to ‘golden triangle’ has made Indo-Myanmar border highly vulnerable to drug trafficking and the border has become a gateway for trafficking of women and small children to South Asian Nations.
▪️ Rohingya Issue: Influx of marginalised muslim minority rohingya community has raised a serious sociocultural confrontations in the areas due to increased burden on local resources.
Steps to Counter the Challenges
The vulnerability of the India-Myanmar border is posing a serious challenge to the internal security of the country. The Government of India should pay immediate attention to effectively manage this border.
▪️ It should strengthen the security of the border by either giving the Assam Rifles the single mandate of guarding the border or deploying another border guarding force such as the Border Security Force (BSF).
▪️ It should initiate a revision of the FMR and reduce the permitted distance of unrestricted travel.
The construction of the ICP along with other infrastructure should be expedited.
▪️ The Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) which is touted as a robust and integrated system, is capable of addressing the gaps in the present system of border security by seamlessly integrating human resources, weapons, and high-tech surveillance equipment, should be proactively deployed.
▪️ Sustained community interaction programmes so that the border tribal communities can be sensitised to participate in the nation building on both sides of the border.
India should endeavour to meaningfully engage with Myanmar and solicit its cooperation in resolving all outstanding issues and better manage their mutual border.